Unsurprisingly, Praxair’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2008 financial results reflect the economic downturn which hit in the latter part of 2008, but still the company remains positive.

Financial results released today by Praxair show its fourth quarter sales are down 5% on last year, but its full-year sales are up 15%.

Praxair reported net income of $200 million and diluted earnings per share of 64 cents in the fourth quarter.

These figures include the impact of a pre-tax charge, which has been attributed in part to the cost-reduction actions taken to offset sharply lower product volumes as a result of the global economic slowdown.

Excluding this charge, net income was $314 million and diluted earnings per share were $1.01, as compared to $316 million and 98 cents in the previous year’s quarter.

For the full year of 2008, reported net income was $1,211 million and diluted earnings per share were $3.80.

Excluding the fourth-quarter charge and a 3-cent impact of a pension settlement charge taken in the first quarter, net income was $1,336 million and diluted earnings per share were $4.20, representing growth of 14% and 16%, respectively in relation to 2007.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Angel commented on the results saying, $quot;As we anticipated, volumes dropped dramatically in November and December as our customers in the electronics, chemicals and metals industries cut production in the face of falling commodity prices and weakening demand.”

“Other end markets, including food and beverage, healthcare, energy and environmental, remained relatively stable.”

$quot;Our outlook for 2009 is cautious as we expect the global economy to remain weak. We moved quickly in the fourth quarter to reduce our cost structure and we will continue to drive our costs lower in 2009 by accelerating our productivity initiatives.$quot;

It was also announced today that the Praxair board of directors has increased Praxair's quarterly dividend to 40 cents per share from 37.5 cents per share.

The dividend is payable on March 16, 2009 to shareholders of record on March 6, 2009.

Steve Angel, Chariman and Chief Executive Officer commented on the decision, he said, $quot;This action reflects the board’s confidence in Praxair’s ability to continue to deliver strong cash flow despite the challenging outlook ahead of us$quot;.