The Linde group is on track to meet its goals and continue to achieve sustainable profitable growth.

By the end of June its sales were up 8.3 per cent to 4.464 billion euros with a 20.4 per cent improvement in operating profit. Sales outside Germany increased 3.1 per cent to 928 million euros. Incoming orders were 6.4 per cent higher than the same period last year at 4.84 billion euros.

And it says it expects an increase in sales and earnings for the whole year. Dr Wolfgang Reitzle said: \\$quot;We are well on our way. In all areas, we are in a better position than we were a year ago and we have created the conditions which will enable us to meet the goals we have set for the current year and continue to be successful in implementing our strategy to achieve sustainable profitable growth.\\$quot;

All of the group's business segments contributed to the overall positive business trends. The highest growth rate was achieved by the on-site business, which supplies industrial gases to major industrial customers from plant situated directly on the user's site, where sales rose 24.4 per cent to 474 million euros.

Sales in the Linde Gas division increased by 10.6 per cent in the first six months of the year to 2.151 billion euros and sales in the bulk business rose by nine per cent to 595 million euros. The cylinder business experienced a 3.8 per cent increase in sales to 816 million euros. The Healthcare segment, which supplies medical and pharmaceutical gases, also continued to grow, helped by the consolidation of a number of small companies in the segment, with a 12.7 per cent rise in sales to 347 million euros.

In the Linde Engineering business segment, the dynamic trends continued in the first six months of 2005. In comparison with the first six months of 2004, sales showed an increase of 15.6 per cent to 725 million euros. Incoming orders of 902 million euros exceeded the high level achieved the previous year of 887 million euros.

Linde says demand for ethylene and air separation plants was especially high with major contracts in the second quarter including the first part of a contract for two large ethylene plants in Iran and an order for two air separation plants in Saudi Arabia and Germany.

The Material Handling segment also experienced upward business trends, with sales in the first half of the year rising 4.8 per cent to 1.668 billion euros, and incoming orders increasing by 5.7 percent to 1.829 billion euros. There was a significant improvement in operating profit of 15.4 percent to 75 million euros, partly due to progress being made with the implementation of optimisation programs.

Linde says by launching a second forklift brand in China, it has paved the way for future development of this fast-expanding market. And the group says no significant changes in market trends are anticipated in the next few months in this business segment. Most of the growth in the world market will continue to be generated in Eastern Europe, the United States and China, while only a moderate rise in demand is expected in Western Europe.

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Linde Gas