Commenting on sales in the 1st quarter of 2022, Benoît Potier, Chairman and CEO of the Air Liquide Group, said:
“There was strong growth in this first quarter, which reflects a good level of activity and demonstrates the Group’s resilience in a context marked, notably, by inflation and the war in Ukraine.
Group sales were up +8% on a comparable basis and +29% based on published figures, notably reflecting the sharp rise in energy prices contractually passed on to Large Industries customers. Sales reached 6.9 billion euros, including 6.6 billion for Gas & Services. This growth confirms the strength of the Gas & Services businesses and the strong momentum of the Engineering & Construction and Global Markets & Technologies business lines.
Gas & Services, which represents over 95% of Group sales, was up +7.1% on a comparable basis. This reflects notably the strong growth of the Electronics business line as well as Industrial Merchant which demonstrated, once again, its ability to adapt prices to reflect rising costs. Despite a high basis of comparison, the Healthcare business line continued to grow. In terms of geographies, growth was particularly strong in Europe and the Americas.
Regarding eﬃciencies, the Group continued to take action to improve performance. In the 1st quarter of 2022, 77 million euros in eﬃciencies were generated in spite of a highly inflationary context, and we confirm our target of over 400 million euros over the year. Cash flow remains high at more than 23% of sales excluding the energy effect.
Investment decisions over the quarter reached the very high level of 913 million euros, with several Electronics projects, particularly in Asia. The 12-month portfolio of opportunities remains stable at 3.3 billion euros. The proportion of projects linked to the energy transition exceeds 40%.
These investments will foster future growth. They will also contribute to ADVANCE, Air Liquide’s new strategic plan for 2025. This plan, which combines financial and extra-financial performance, is structured around four priorities: delivering strong financial performance, decarbonizing industry, promoting progress through technological innovation and acting for all. With ADVANCE, the Group reaffirms its commitment to sustainable development while continuing its growth trajectory.
In 2022, assuming no significant economic disruption, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to further increase its operating margin and to deliver recurring net profit growth at constant exchange rates.”
Highlights of the 1st quarter
- Launch of ADVANCE, the new Air Liquide strategic plan for 2025, which places sustainable development at the heart of the Group’s strategy and combines financial and extra-financial performance around four priorities:
- Delivering strong financial performance
- A continued sales growth of 5 to 6% on average per year.
- A Return On Capital Employed (ROCE) of more than >10% starting from 2023.
- At the same time, a reduction of our CO2 emissions in absolute terms starting around 2025, in line with the Group’s Sustainable Development Objectives.
- Decarbonizing the industry, in line with the Group’s objective to reduce its CO2 emissions by a third between 2020 and 2035, and to be carbon neutral by 2050.
- Promoting progress through technological innovation by focusing on new markets, in particular hydrogen mobility, electronics, healthcare, industrial merchant and high technologies.
- Acting for all by including the perspective of the Group’s direct stakeholders (employees, shareholders, suppliers, customers), as well as those of society at large.
- Delivering strong financial performance
- Mobilization of the Group to support victims of the war in Ukraine, notably through the Air Liquide Foundation.
- Publication of Air Liquide’s first Sustainable Development Report, which set out the Group’s ambitions for Sustainable Development and its 2021 extra-financial results.
- Attribution of “A-” rating by the CDP in both categories of climate change and water management. This rating recognizes the “Leadership Level” of the Group’s commitment to the environment.
- In the United States, construction of Air Liquide’s largest biomethane production plant in the world.
Decarbonizing the industry:
- Memorandum of Understanding signed with Eni to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries in the Mediterranean Basin.
- Selection of the Air Liquide and EQIOM project by the European Innovation Fund with the aim to transform the EQIOM plant in Lumbres, France, into one of the first carbon-neutral cement plants in Europe.
- Selection by the European Innovation Fund of the Kairos@C project, jointly developed by Air Liquide and BASF, with the objective to develop the world’s largest cross-border carbon capture and storage (CCS) value chain project around the port of Antwerp.
- Agreement signed with Sogestran to develop shipping solutions for carbon management, as part of carbon capture and storage projects.
- Support of the French government for the Air Liquide Normand’Hy project to produce renewable hydrogen on a large scale. This project will have an initial capacity of 200 MW and will contribute to creating a French and European low-carbon hydrogen industry, as well as to the decarbonization of the Normandy industrial basin.
- Memorandum of Understanding signed with Airbus, Incheon Airport and Korean Air to study the use of hydrogen at Incheon International Airport.
Electronics & Industry:
- Within the context of long-term contracts with two world leaders in semiconductors for the supply of ultra-high purity industrial gases in Japan, Air Liquide has begun a staged investment of more than 300 million euros in four state-of-the-art production plants.
- Long-term agreements signed to supply a semiconductor manufacturing site in Arizona, United States. As part of this agreement, Air Liquide will invest nearly 60 million US dollars to build and operate onsite plants and systems.
- Increased presence in India with an investment of around 40 million euros in a new air separation unit dedicated to Industrial Merchant activities, in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.
Group revenue totaled 6,887 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2022, up a strong +7.9% on a comparable basis. This performance was delivered in a challenging context of exceptionally high energy prices, strong inflation, strain on supply chains and the war in Ukraine. The Group benefited from a solid business model and proactive actions to increase prices in the Industrial Merchant business. Introduced in the 2nd half of 2021, the effectiveness of these increases started to be seen from the 4th quarter of 2021, with stronger pricing in the 1st quarter of 2022. The Group’s published revenue saw very strong growth of +29.1% with an energy impact that reached +16.4% and with favorable currency (+4.2%) and significant scope (+0.6%) impacts.
Gas & Services revenue totaled 6,590 million euros, up by + 7.1% on a comparable basis. Sales as published for the 1st quarter of 2022 showed a strong growth of +29.1%, with a very high energy impact at +17.2% and with positive currency (+4.2%) and significant scope (+0.6%) impacts.
- Gas & Services revenue in the Americas region totaled 2,331 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2022, showing a strong increase of +9.0% on a comparable basis. Growth in Large Industries reached +8.3%, driven by the dynamic demand, particularly in the Chemicals and Steel industries. Up +10.0%, Industrial Merchant revenue benefited from the acceleration of pricing (+9.3%) and the increase in volumes. Proximity care in the United States and the Home Healthcare business in Latin America drove growth in the Healthcare business line (+3.5%) in a context of lower demand for medical oxygen to treat covid-19. Finally, all business segments within Electronics contributed to the particularly dynamic growth (+10.0%).
- Revenue in Europe increased by +7.2% in the 1st quarter of 2022 on a comparable basis and totaled 2,718 million euros in a context of exceptionally high energy prices and the war in Ukraine. While Large Industries showed a -4.5% decrease in sales, growth accelerated in Industrial Merchant to reach an exceptionally high level of +22.7%, driven by record pricing of +19.4%. Healthcare continued to grow (+3.0%) despite a particularly high basis of comparison in 2021, benefiting from dynamic development in Home Healthcare.
- Sales in Asia-Pacific were up +4.4% on a comparable basis in the 1st quarter of 2022 and totaled 1,340 million euros, driven by particularly dynamic growth across all the Electronics business segments (+13.1%). Large Industries sales were down slightly by -1.1%, impacted by soft demand in China and by low hydrogen sales in South Korea. Industrial Merchant revenue grew by +2.7%, benefiting in particular from solid growth in China.
- Revenue in the Middle-East and Africa totaled 201 million euros, which was stable (-0.2%) on a comparable basis and compared to the 1st quarter of 2021. Volumes increased strongly in South Africa with the integration of the 16 Sasol air separation units whose acquisition was finalized at the end of the 1st half of 2021: sales of approximatively 35 million euros in the 1st quarter were recognized as part of the significant scope impact (and hence excluded from comparable growth).
Large Industries sales were stable (+0.1%) on a comparable basis compared to the 1st quarter of 2021, with mixed activity depending on the region. In the Americas, demand was robust across all markets, while in Europe and Asia, sales were lower in the Steel and Refining industries. Demand in the Chemicals industry remained solid globally. Industrial Merchant business posted strong comparable growth of +11.9%, driven by the acceleration of pricing which was up +10.7%, even reaching +19.4% in Europe, and by solid volumes. Sales comparable growth was particularly dynamic in Electronics, at +13.7%, with all business segments showing strong growth. Healthcare continued to grow (+2.6%) on a comparable basis, supported by the momentum of Home Healthcare activity, despite a particularly high basis of comparison in 2021 related to the strong demand for medical oxygen to treat Covid-19.
Consolidated revenue from Engineering & Construction totaled 108 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2022, posting a strong growth of +40.3% and reflecting the increase in order intake in recent quarters. Order intake reached 264 million euros.
The sales of Global Markets & Technologies totaled 189 million euros in the 1st quarter, up a strong +18.3%, driven by the dynamic biogas activity and the increase of sales for the hydrogen mobility. Order intake for Group projects and third-party customers reached 214 million euros, up compared to 2021.
Efficiencies reached 77 million euros in the 1st quarter. This performance was delivered in a context of high inflation unfavorable to procurement efficiencies. The projects initiated at the beginning of 2022 are expected to increase their contribution over the coming quarters, hence confirming the annual objective set at more than 400 million euros. In this inflationary environment, the priority of operations was the passthrough of costs into pricing.
Cash flow from operating activities before changes in working capital totaled 1,400 million euros, a strong increase of +12.6% and +8.7% excluding the currency impact. It stood at 23.3% of sales excluding the energy impact, stable compared to the 1st quarter of 2021. It allowed, in particular, the financing of industrial investments, which amounted to 784 million euros, representing 13.0% of sales excluding the energy impact.
In the 1st quarter of 2022, industrial and financial investment decisions reached the very high level of 913 million euros, compared to 603 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2021.They included several carrier gases supply projects in Asia but also in the United States and in Europe for Electronics customers. The 12-month portfolio of investment opportunities is stable at the high level of 3.3 billion euros at the end of March. Projects related to the energy transition account for more than 40% of the portfolio.
The additional contribution to revenue of unit start-ups and ramp-ups amounted to 105 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2022 and is expected to be between 410 and 435 million euros in 2022, higher than in 2021.
(Source: Air Liquide)