Praxair has reported record fourth-quarter income, before an accounting change, of $220 million and earnings per share of 67 cents, up 22% from the prior year.

Reported net income including the adoption of an accounting change was $214 million and diluted earnings per share were 65 cents.

Sales in the fourth quarter rose 13 per cent to $2,020 million, compared to $1,786 million in the 2004 quarter. Operating profit grew 19 per cent to $345 million versus $289 million in last year's period. Sales and operating profit increased in every geographic region.

For the full year of 2005, Praxair reported net income of $726 million, and diluted earnings per share of $2.20. Income before the accounting change and adjusted for an income tax charge taken in the third quarter was $2.50 per diluted share, up 19 per cent from 2004. Full-year sales were $7,656 million, 16% higher than sales in 2004.

Dennis H. Reilley, chairman and chief executive officer, said: 'We delivered record results in all of our markets through successful implementation of new growth initiatives, while continuing to supply the highest level of service to our customers.'

Regions

In North America, sales in the fourth quarter of $1,253 million rose 11 per cent from $1,130 million in the year-ago quarter. Higher sales to manufacturing markets, strong oil and gas well services business, strong packaged-gases sales, and favourable pricing comparisons drove the year-over-year sales growth. Operating profit grew 20 per cent to a record $193 million from $161 million a year ago.

In Europe, sales grew 12 per cent to $263 million in the quarter. Excluding currency effects, sales grew 19 per cent, due primarily to the purchase of industrial gas operations in Germany in 2004. Organic business activity remained stable, with two per cent overall volume growth in the region. Operating profit grew to $61 million, from $56 million in the year-ago quarter.

In South America, sales of $314 million grew 33 per cent versus the year-ago quarter, and 14 per cent excluding currency effects. Both higher pricing and higher volumes contributed to underlying sales growth. Sales growth came primarily from healthcare and manufacturing markets. Operating profit rose to $56 million from $41 million in last year\\$quot;s quarter.

Sales in Asia grew ten per cent to $148 million in the quarter due to strong demand from electronics, manufacturing and food-freezing markets in China, India, Korea, and Thailand. Operating profit rose to $25 million.

Year 2006

For the full year of 2006, Praxair expects sales in the range of $8.1 billion to $8.4 billion, operating profit in the range of $1,350 million to $1,425 million, and diluted earnings per share in the range of $2.65 to $2.75. This guidance includes the effect of expensing stock options, which is estimated at about 8 cents per diluted share. Full-year capital expenditures are expected to be in the area of $900 million to $950 million, supporting a robust backlog of new projects across all geographic regions.