Airgas Reports A 19% Jump In 3Q Net Income

RADNOR, Pa. (AP) — Airgas reported a 19 percent jump in third-quarter net income Friday as its customers in the manufacturing, utilities and petrochemical sectors ramped up spending. The industrial gas producer also lifted the low end of its full-year adjusted earnings guidance on Friday and boosted its fourth-quarter dividend by 16 percent.

RADNOR, Pa. (AP) — Airgas reported a 19 percent jump in third-quarter net income Friday as its customers in the manufacturing, utilities and petrochemical sectors ramped up spending.

The industrial gas producer also lifted the low end of its full-year adjusted earnings guidance on Friday and boosted its fourth-quarter dividend by 16 percent.

Airgas earned $55.8 million, or 65 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31. That's up from $46.9 million, or 56 cents per share, in the prior-year period.

Adjusted earnings were 80 cents per share, which excludes costs related to Air Products & Chemicals Inc.'s takeover attempt, a one-time interest penalty and other items.

The performance met the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue improved to $1.03 billion from $944.8 million, meeting Wall Street's view.

Airgas Inc. now expects full-year adjusted earnings in a range of $3.28 to $3.32 per share. It previously predicted $3.22 to $3.32 per share. The company, based in Radnor, Pa., anticipates fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 82 cents to 86 cents per share.

Analysts predict full-year net income of $3.29 per share and fourth-quarter earnings of 83 cents per share.

CEO Peter McCausland said in a statement that Airgas is on track to top its 2012 earnings goal of at least $4.20 per share.

"We continue to manage costs while gaining production and distribution efficiencies as volumes recover," McCausland said. "Our national footprint and industry-leading platform also help boost operating leverage on sales growth."

The company increased its fourth-quarter dividend to 29 cents, from 25 cents. The dividend will be paid on March 31 to shareholders of record on March 15.

Earlier in the day rival Air Products & Chemicals reported that its fiscal first-quarter profit rose 7 percent as revenue climbed. The company, which sells specialty gases and equipment to industrial and commercial clients, raised its offer for Airgas last month by 7 percent to $70 per share and called it its "best and final offer." Air Products has been pursuing the potential acquisition for more than a year.

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