UPDATE 1-Praxair expects stronger 2nd-quarter as Asia expansion pays off
* Expects second-qtr EPS $1.45-$1.50 vs $1.42 year earlier
* First-qtr EPS $1.30 vs $1.38 year earlier
* Revenue rises 2 percent
* Shares rise as much as 3 pct
April 24 (Reuters) - Praxair Inc, the largest industrial gas supplier in the Americas, forecast a stronger second quarter as it benefits from its expansion in Asia.
Shares of the company, which reported a 7 percent fall in first-quarter profit, rose 3 percent to $112.96 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Sales in its traditional markets such as Europe have been slowing due to weak industrial activity, resulting in lower packaged gases volumes in Spain and Italy.
Revenue from Europe, Praxair's third-biggest market, fell 2 percent in the first quarter. Sales from Asia rose 10 percent during the same period.
"Our Asia business grew sales at double-digit rates in China and Korea, due primarily to project start-ups. Sales in Brazil improved in March driven by manufacturing and construction," Chief Executive Steve Angel said in a statement.
Praxair forecast second-quarter earnings in the range of $1.45 to $1.50 per share. It reported earnings of $1.42 per share a year earlier. Analysts on average were expecting $1.51 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Praxair, which competes with Air Products and Chemicals Inc , signed a deal with India's JSW Steel Ltd in January to increase supply of gaseous oxygen, nitrogen and argon. It also set up its third production facility in the country to serve Usha Martin Ltd.
The more-than-century-old company, which sells oxygen and argon, serves the healthcare, petroleum refining, chemicals and aerospace industries.
The company's net profit in the first quarter fell to $391 million, or $1.30 per share, from $419 million, or $1.38 per share, a year earlier. The fall was in part due to the impact of devaluation of bolivar by the Venezuelan government.
After adjustments, it earned $1.38 per share, in-line with analysts' average expectation.
Revenue rose about 2 percent to $2.89 billion.
Acquisitions contributed 3 percent to Praxair's first-quarter sales growth.
The company bought 17 smaller gas distributors last year and in February acquired NuCO2 Inc, a seller of beverage-grade carbon dioxide, to capture some market share from Airgas Inc in the high-margin packaged gas business.
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