Praxair has announced third-quarter diluted earnings per share of 75 cents, up 27 per cent on a comparable basis. Net income rose to $247m in the quarter.

Sales in the third quarter rose 11 per cent to $2,099m, compared to $1,890m in the 2005 quarter. Operating profit (on a comparable basis) grew 28 per cent to $392m from $307m in the prior-year quarter. Higher operating profit was due to strong volume growth across most end markets and geographic regions, higher prices, productivity improvements, and a gain from divestitures.

"Activity in the industrial economy has continued to be strong, and we have not seen any meaningful decline in demand from our customers," said Dennis H. Reilley, chairman and chief executive officer.

North America
Third-quarter sales of $1,187m rose 9 per cent from the year-ago quarter, and 11 per cent excluding the effects of lower natural gas prices, due to higher volumes and higher prices. Sales grew in all major end-market segments. Operating profit grew to $204m, up 28 per cent from $159m in the prior-year period on a comparable basis.


Europe
Sales in the quarter of $293m were 14 per cent above the prior period, and increased 10 per cent excluding currency effects. Underlying sales growth was primarily attributed to volume growth in Spain and Italy. On a comparable basis, operating profit rose 11 per cent to $69m.


South America
Third-quarter sales of $340m grew 16 per cent versus the prior year, and 10 per cent excluding currency effects, primarily due to strong volume growth in the energy sector. Operating profit rose to $69m, an increase of 35 per cent versus last year's quarter on a comparable basis, due to higher volumes and productivity programmes.


Asia
Sales grew 21 per cent to $165m in the quarter, from $136m in the year-ago period, led by robust electronics sales. Operating profit increased to $27m, from $23m in the prior-year period on a comparable basis.


Praxair Surface Technologies
Sales in the quarter were $114m, 3 per cent below the prior year. Excluding the effects of a divestiture and currency, organic sales growth was 9 per cent, due primarily to strong coatings demand in aerospace and higher pricing. Operating profit increased to $23m, a result of higher volumes, productivity, and a gain on sale.


For the fourth quarter of 2006, Praxair expects diluted earnings per share in the range of 75 cents to 78 cents, 15 to 20 per cent above the fourth quarter of 2005, on a comparable basis.

For the full year of 2006, Praxair expects year-over-year sales growth of about 10 per cent. Raising its earnings guidance, Praxair expects diluted earnings per share to be in the range of $2.93 to $2.96, representing 21 to 22 per cent growth versus the prior year on a comparable basis. Full-year capital expenditures are expected to be $1.05bn to $1.10bn, supporting a growing backlog of new projects across all geographic regions, which will come on-stream in 2007 and 2008.