UPDATE 1-Airgas cuts profit forecast again on helium shortage

Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:33am EST

* Cuts full-year profit forecast to $4.40-$4.46 per share

* Adjusted 3rd-qtr profit $1.04 per share vs est $1.07

* Revenue rises 5 pct to $1.21 bln

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Industrial gas supplier Airgas Inc reported third-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates and cut its full-year profit forecast for the second time, due mainly to a shortage in the supply of helium.

The company said full-year profit would be about 7 cents per share lower than a year earlier due to a shortage in the supply of lighter-than-air gas helium, which is used in welding metal parts and in hospitals for surgeries.

Helium sales account for about 3 percent of the company's sales.

Airgas now expects full-year profit to be between $4.40 per share and $4.46 per share, down from the $4.42 to $4.57 per share range it forecast in October.

The company supplies cylinders of helium, argon, and other gases used in construction and healthcare. It also rents out gas monitoring and related safety equipment to oil and gas companies.

Larger rival Air Products, the world's largest supplier of hydrogen, raised its full-year earnings forecast range on Wednesday citing its project backlog.

Airgas' third-quarter profit rose to $82.9 million, or $1.05 per share, from $72.6 million, or 93 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $1.21 billion.

Revenue in gas and rental business, which sells gases such as nitrogen and oxygen and rents out storage tanks and welding equipment for joining metal parts, rose 6 percent.

Excluding one-time restructuring charges, the company reported earnings of $1.04 per share. Analysts' were expecting a profit of $1.07 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"Moderating activity levels in our industrial customer base throughout the quarter were further exacerbated in late December by uncertainty around the fiscal cliff and by the timing of the holidays during the work week," Airgas Executive Chairman Peter McCausland said in a statement.

Shares of the Radnor, Pennsylvania-based company closed at $92.87 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

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