Air Liquide S.A. is a French multinational company which delivers industrial gases and services to medical, chemical and electronic manufacturers. The Company operates in over 80 countries with approximately 65,000 employees and more than 3.5 million customers, is the world's largest supplier of industrial gases by revenues and the world leader in technologies and services for industry and health. The Company targets its R&D efforts to create gases that are used in products such as healthcare items, electronic chips, food and chemicals as bio-resources, and focuses on analysis of combustion, membranes, modelling, and the production of hydrogen gas.
On 23 May 2016, Air Liquide completed the acquisition of the American company Airgas, which was a major achievement in 2016. The combined businesses including Airgas will generate worldwide annual sales of more than 20 billion euros. In 2016 the Company launched NEOS, a new company development program for 2016-2020 for profitable growth over the long-term, opened a new Research and Technology Centre in Shanghai, a storage facility for pure helium in Germany and a hydrogen facility in the US, launched a project for the plant of the future certified “technological showcases” in France. The Group achieved a solid performance in 2016, which for the year includes Airgas, and showed solid growth in revenue, net profit, and cash flow.
According to the Company´s Annual Report group revenue for 2016 totalled 18,135 million euros and increased by 14.6% compared to 15,818 million euros in 2015, driven partially by the consolidation of Airgas sales from May 2016, but penalised by negative currency impact of 1.4% and by adverse energy impact of 2.2%. Excluding currency and energy impact, growth stood at 18.2%. Excluding Airgas, currency and energy impact, comparable sales growth in 2016 for the Group stood at 0.9%. It benefited from solid growth in Gas & Services sales although the activity level remained weak in Engineering & Construction in a difficult environment.
The company’s operating margin amounted to 16.7% in 2016, which included the first Airgas synergies for 45 million US dollars. Net profit reached 1,844 million euros in 2016 and increased by 5.0% compared to 1,756.4 million euros in 2015. Net earnings per share amounted to 5.11 euros per share and represented an increase of 2.4% compared with 4.99 euros per share in 2015. Net cash was up by 30.5% compared with 2015 and represented 20.4% of sales, driven notably by a good level of operating cash flow. The payment of estimated dividend of 2.60 euros per share represented an increase of +2.7% with the total estimated payout ratio of 56%.
The Revenue from Gas & Services, which is the major field of activity of the Company followed by Construction & Engineering, Global Markets & Technologies and other activities, reached 17,331 million euros and rose by 17.5% against 2015 figures, and by 21.3% excluding the impact of currency and energy.
By sectors within the Gas & Services business line, Large Industries increased their revenue by 5.4% across all geographies, benefiting from production located in Germany, Poland, the Americas, and China.
Industrial Merchant revenue rose by nearly 45% in 2016. Excluding Airgas; this activity was down by 1.6%. In Europe, sales were stable in 2016, supported by solid demand in France, Spain and the United Kingdom, and high demand in Poland and Russia. In North America, energy and metal fabrication markets were down as compared with 2015, while Agri-Food and Pharmaceuticals are growing. In Asia-Pacific, sales in Japan recorded a slight increase in the second half of 2016, while China posted solid growth over the year. The price effect over the year is slightly positive at 0.5% in a globally low inflation environment. For Electronics, sales increased by 4.3% in 2016.
Geographically, the Gas & Services revenue from the Europe region totalled 6,593 million euros in 2016, increasing by 2.0% compared to 2015 and confirming a progressive recovery. By sectors, European Large Industries increased by 2.6% in 2016. Demand in air gases was strong throughout the year. Eastern Europe continued to expand, particularly in Russia, Poland and Turkey. Industrial Merchant sales were stable over the year – sales were up in Food, Beverage and Pharma markets. Liquid oxygen and nitrogen volumes were up over the year. At the end of the year, the small customers’ market, mainly cylinders, showed encouraging signs. Healthcare pursued solid development with an increase of 4%. Significant sales growth was notable in Hygiene and Specialty Ingredients activities. Electronics revenue was down by 6% over the year, penalised by Equipment & Installation sales which were down by 17%.
In the Americas region revenues from Americas Gas & Services totalled 6,230 million euros in 2016, representing an increase of 77.8%, excluding currency and energy impact, and of 1.8%, excluding Airgas.
Industrial Merchant in North America remained slow in the United States and Canada. Business continued to expand dynamically in South America, in particular in Large Industries and Healthcare. Electronics sales presented a drop of 1.6% in 2016.
Asia-Pacific revenue increased by 4.2% in 2016 and reached 3,936 million euros, driven notably by Large Industries and Electronics.
Middle East & Africa revenue totalled 572 million euros in 2016 slightly increased by 2.5% against 558 million euros in 2015.
Research & Development (R&D) and corporate costs amounted to 254 million euros in 2016 and represented an increase of 22.5% as compared to 2015.
Within one year the goodwill of the Company rose by 242% and increased to 13,889 million euros in 2016 compared to 5,730 million euros in 2015, driven by the acquisition of Airgas in May 20161.
The balance sheet is strong, reinforced by solid growth in cash flow, revenue and net profit. Assuming a comparable environment, Air Liquide is strong in its ability to deliver net profit growth in 2017.
 Acquisition of Airgas in 2016 is a major achievement of Air Liquide in recent years, through which the Company extended its market.