UPDATE 1-Praxair, Air Products say order backlog to fuel 2013 growth

Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:01am EST

* Praxair expects FY13 revenue to rise 7 pct

* Air Products forecasts higher profit of $5.70-$5.90/share

* Air Products 1st-qtr profit from continuing ops up 23 pct

* Praxair's 4th-qtr profit slips, revenue rises marginally

Jan 23 (Reuters) - Industrial gas suppliers Praxair Inc and Air Products and Chemicals Inc expect their order backlog to prop up results this year despite weak economic growth in most of their markets.

Air Products and Praxair have already raised prices of some industrial gases they sell -- such as argon for welding, carbon dioxide for surgeries, oxygen for making steel and hydrogen for refining heavy crude -- to offset rising costs.

"Global economic growth is expected to be modest at best so we will continue to take actions to improve our performance," said Air Products Chief Executive John McGlade, adding that "price improvement" was one of the company's priorities.

Air Products's bigger rival Praxair, the largest industrial gas supplier in the Americas, said revenue this year is expected to grow 7 percent to about $12 billion, with large projects contributing a backlog of $2.6 billion.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $11.96 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Air Products, the world's largest supplier of hydrogen, raised its full-year earnings forecast to a range of $5.70 to $5.90 per share, citing its backlog.

Given the lingering weakness in their traditional markets of North America and Europe, Praxair and Air Products have been looking to increase their presence in Asia and South America.

During the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Air Products took a majority stake in Chile's industrial gas supplier Indura SA , bought the other half of its DA NanoMaterials joint venture with DuPont and took a 25 percent stake in AHG, the largest industrial gases company in Saudi Arabia.

Connecticut-based Praxair, which generated more than half of its sales in 2011 outside the United States, in October said it would trim 410 jobs by the end of 2013, mainly in Europe -- its third-biggest market.

The more-than-century-old company reported on Wednesday that fourth-quarter net income slipped 1 percent to $414 million as weak sales in Europe and South America offset a strong performance in Asia.

Praxair raised its quarterly stock dividend by 9 percent to 60 cents per share.

Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Air Products, with operations in more than 50 countries, reported a 23 percent rise in net income from continuing operations in the first quarter ended Dec. 31.

Revenue increased 10 percent to $2.56 billion.

Praxair shares, which have risen 12 percent since touching a year-low of $101.93 in early June, closed at $114.02 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shares of Air Products have risen 17 percent since their year-low of $76.11 in late June. The stock closed at $89.40 on Tuesday.

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