Praxair has announced record first-quarter net income of $225 million, and diluted earnings per share of 68 cents.

Earnings per share and net income grew 19 per cent on a comparable basis including stock option expense in the prior year.

Sales in the first quarter rose 11 per cent to $2,026m, compared to $1,827m in the 2005 quarter. Operating profit of $352m grew 17 per cent on a comparable basis due to strong sales growth and significant operating leverage from price attainment and productivity.

'We delivered another quarter of record results,' said Dennis H. Reilley, chairman and chief executive officer. 'Our electronics business led sales higher with growth of 35 per cent, followed by aerospace, metals and manufacturing, which showed high double-digit growth.'

In North America, first-quarter sales of $1,169m rose 10 per cent from $1,060m in the year-ago quarter. Operating profit grew 24 per cent on a comparable basis to a record $200m.

In Europe, sales were six per cent below the prior year due to a weaker Euro currency. Sales in local currency grew 4% and operating profit of $59m was comparable to the prior year period, excluding currency effects.

In South America, sales of $317m grew 30 per cent versus the year-ago quarter, and 12 per cent excluding currency effects, from strong pricing comparisons and higher volumes. Sales growth was broad based across all end markets. Operating profit rose to $57m, an increase of 36 per cent versus last year's quarter on a comparable basis.

Sales in Asia grew 20 per cent to $147m, from $122min the year-ago quarter. Strong growth in sales of electronic gases and materials drove the sales increase. Operating profit rose to $23m.

Praxair Surface Technologies' sales in the quarter grew to $125m, 8 per cent above the prior year. Excluding currency effects, quarter-over-quarter sales growth was 12 per cent, due primarily to strong demand for OEM aviation coatings and higher pricing. Operating profit grew to $13m, an increase of 30 per cent on a comparable basis.

Cash flow from operations was $243m in the first quarter. Capital expenditures were $256m. The company's after-tax-return-on-capital ratio was 13.7% per cent for the quarter.

For the second quarter of 2006, Praxair expects diluted earnings per share in the range of 68 cents to 71 cents, 11 per cent to 16 per cent above the second quarter of 2005, adjusting the prior period for stock option expense.

For the full year of 2006, Praxair expects continued year-over-year sales growth in the area of 10 per cent.