Linde eyes further profit gain in 2020 on volumes, price hikes

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(Reuters) - Linde Plc LIN.N aims for further robust underlying earnings growth this year, driven by volume and price increases, even as the economic backdrop weakens, the world's largest industrial gases group said on Thursday.

The supplier of gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen to factories and hospitals said it targets 10% to 13% earnings per share (EPS) growth excluding currency effects to $8.00 to $8.25 in 2020.

Analysts on average see EPS growing to $8.07, according to Refinitiv data, after a better-than-expected 23% jump in adjusted pro-forma EPS excluding currency effects to $7.34 in 2019, above consensus for $7.29.

“Looking ahead to 2020, we anticipate continued softening of macro-economic conditions, but project double-digit EPS growth from our industry-leading backlog and continued efforts to optimize the business,” Linde Chief Executive Steve Angel said in statement.

The U.S.-German company raised its earnings outlook three times last year, counting on price hikes and cost reductions to offset the effects of a global economic slowdown.

Linde's biggest competitor, France-based Air Liquide AIR.PA, on Tuesday reported full-year sales in line with analyst expectations, while its smaller U.S. rival Air Products APD.N reported a slight earnings beat at the end of January.

Reporting by Bartosz Dabrowski in Gdansk; Editing by Maria Sheahan