The Board of Directors of Société d’Oxygène et d’Acétylène d’Extrême-Orient (SOAEO), an Air Liquide subsidiary whose activities are mainly centred in south-east Asia, have approved the 2004 financial statement.

SOAEO report a continued growth in net earnings of +7.5% (+15.2% excluding foreign exchange), with an increased dividend of €3.60 per share.

Sales grew by 3.7%, excluding foreign exchange, compared with the same period in 2003.

Sales are mostly generated in Indonesia and Thailand through long-term contracts, where activity was sustained. The Philippines benefited from strong growth resulting from sales in electronics gas and equipment. In Hong Kong business grew, especially in the speciality gas and medical equipment categories. In Singapore, business improved in most sectors. Sales of equipment for Electronics were lower than the notably strong sales of 2003. In Malaysia, business slowed with lower sales in cylinder gas and welding equipment.

Earning for the year benefited from solid business activity, especially in the first six months.

Consolidated net earnings for SOAEO totalled €43.4 million in 2004, an increase of 7.5% or 15.2% excluding foreign exchange, over 2003.

Net earnings per share were €5.65, also representing a 7.5% increase and a 15.2% increase excluding foreign exchange.

Cash flow reported a substantial increase of 16.8% and 24.8% excluding foreign exchange for 2004. This enabled a significant reduction in net debt to €24 million euros as of December 31, 2004, compared with €49 million in 2003. The net debt to equity ratio was 11.8%.

Earnings for SOAEO SA, resulting form dividends from its subsidiaries for the most part, totalled €38 million in 2004, compared with €39.2 million in 2003.