Linde has achieved significant increases in sales and operating profit (EBIT) in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2006 and confirmed its forecast for the whole year.

On a comparable basis, group sales rose 14. per cent to €2.415bn (2005: €2.118bn). While sales outside Germany increased by 14.8 per cent to €1.938bn (2005: €1.688bn), sales within Germany saw a 10.9 per cent increase to €477m (2005: €430m). Incoming orders of €2.533bn were also higher, 7.9 per cent above those for the same period in 2005.

Based on comparable prior year figures, Linde's earnings also continued to show a significant improvement. In the first three months of the year, group EBIT rose 36.4 per cent to €225m (2005: €165m) and earnings before taxes on income (EBT) increased by 48.6 per cent to €208m (2005: €140m). Operating cash flow increased by €77m to €214m. Net income after minority interests of €134m was 50.6 per cent higher than the figure in 2005 of €89m. There was a corresponding rise in earnings per share at the end of March to €1.12 (2005: €0.75).

'We have taken advantage of the good economic environment and have begun the new fiscal year at full pelt,' said professor Wolfgang Reitzle, president of the executive board.

'We have established an extremely stable base for the continuing success of our business in all areas and we are approaching the challenges ahead with a healthy dose of optimism. We confirm our previous forecast for the full year 2006 - we expect group sales and earnings to exceed the figures for the prior year.'

All business segments contributed to this very good overall start to fiscal 2006, with each segment achieving a disproportionate increase in earning power.

Sales in the Linde Gas division increased by 16.1 per cent in the first three months of the year to €1.198bn (2005: €1.032bn). During the same period, EBIT rose 20.0 per cent to €192m (2005: €160m). This significant improvement in earnings was partly the result of the successful implementation of the GAP (Growth and Performance) optimization program, which was launched in the course of 2005.

Linde Gas achieved double-digit growth rates in all product segments. In the on-site segment, sales rose 30.2 per cent in comparison with the same period in the previous year to €293m (2005: €225m), bulk business saw a 15.2 per cent increase in sales to €326m (2005: €283m), cylinder gas sales rose 10.7 per cent to €434m (2005: €392m) and the healthcare segment saw sales growth of 12.4 per cent to €191m (2005: €170m).

In the most important market of Europe, Linde Gas increased sales in the first three months of the year by 11.4 per cent to €809m (2005: €726m), benefiting above all from continuing strong demand in Eastern Europe. Linde Gas also achieved significantly higher sales in both North and South America and succeeded in further expanding its business activities. With a 47.2 per cent leap in sales to €53m (2005: €36m), the division again achieved its highest rate of sales growth in the Asia/Pacific region.

In the course of the next nine months, Linde anticipates positive developments in its industrial and medical gases business worldwide and expects Linde Gas to achieve increases in sales and earnings once again for the full year 2006.

For further information:
Linde Q1