Airgas Overcomes Takeover Bid To Post Stellar 2Q

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Airgas Inc. said Tuesday that its fiscal second-quarter earnings climbed 22 percent as same-store sales rose, and the industrial gas supplier heaped fresh criticism on a takeover bid from rival Air Products and Chemicals Inc. Airgas, which is based in Radnor, Pa.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Airgas Inc. said Tuesday that its fiscal second-quarter earnings climbed 22 percent as same-store sales rose, and the industrial gas supplier heaped fresh criticism on a takeover bid from rival Air Products and Chemicals Inc.

Airgas, which is based in Radnor, Pa., said its "continued outstanding performance" further supports its contention that its stockholders should be adequately compensated in an acquisition. Air Products, of Allentown, Pa., has been trying for months to buy Airgas and boosted its offer last month by $2 to $65.50 per share.

But Airgas again called that price "grossly inadequate" in a letter addressed to Air Products Chairman and CEO John McGlade that the company also released Tuesday.

"In light of Airgas' strong performance, outstanding prospects, and unique industry position ... the current offer price is not close to the right price for the sale of (Airgas)," the company said.

Airgas said each board member believes the company's value in any sale would "meaningfully" exceed $70 per share. It said its board is willing to authorize negotiations with Air Products, if the prospective buyer "provides us with sufficient reason to believe that those negotiations will lead to a transaction at a price that is consistent with that valuation."

Air Products representatives did not return an immediate call seeking comment.

Airgas sells industrial and medical gases and provides gas equipment, welding products, tools, and safety gear. Air Products sells gases for industrial, medical and other uses.

Airgas said it earned $66.6 million, or 78 cents per share, in the three months that ended Sept. 30. That's up from $54.5 million, or 65 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. Sales climbed 10 percent to $1.06 billion.

Adjusted earnings were 83 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected, on average, earnings of 82 cents per share on about $1.05 billion in revenue.

The company said same-store sales grew 9 percent compared with last year's quarter. CEO Peter McCausland said in a statement that revenue has yet to recover to pre-recession levels, but the company saw favorable leverage on sales growth.

Costs and expenses climbed 10 percent to $939.8 million.

Airgas said it now expects adjusted earnings for fiscal 2011 to range from $3.22 to $3.32 per share, which is up from a previous forecast of $3.15 to $3.30 per share. Analysts expect $3.26 per share.

Airgas shares rose 64 cents to $70.63 in late morning trading.

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