Airgas Q1 Sales Tick Up, Profit Flat

The company's quarterly sales were boosted by continued growth in its non-residential construction products, allowing it to raise its full-year earnings guidance.

Airgas – No. 8 on Industrial Distribution's 2014 Big 50 List – reported its 2015 first quarter earnings on Tuesday for the period ended June 30.

The numbers were highlighted by total sales increasing 3 percent year-over-year to $1.3 billion, with organic sales increasing 2 percent. Gas and rent sales were up 5 percent, and hardgoods sales were down 3 percent. In the company's Distribution segment, organic sales were relatively flat with gas and rent sales up 2 percent and hardgoods down 3 percent.

Profit dipped slightly in the quarter to $88.24 million, a 0.7 percent decrease from last year.

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"As anticipated, sales to our customers engaged in the energy and chemical and the manufacturing and metal fabrication sectors remained challenged through the quarter,” Airgas President and CEO Michael L. Molinini said. "One bright spot is the continued strength we are seeing in non-residential construction. After a relatively slow calendar 2014, our March 2015 quarter saw year-over-year growth in non-residential construction of 5 percent and this quarter year-over-year growth reached 6 percent. We remain focused on things we can control, including leveraging our industry leading platform and managing expenses."

The company said that selling, distribution, and administrative expenses increase 4 percent from last year.

Since the start of the fiscal year through July 27, Airgas has acquired nine businesses with total annual sales of approximately $74 million. On July 22, the company announced the acquisitions of Weldinghouse, Inc., and the nitrogen services business of Priority Energy Services, LLC.

Airgas also slightly raised its full-year guidance, based on expected growth in organic sales, while Executive Chairman Peter McCausland offered a mixed outlook.

"While we are encouraged by some bright spots, such as the increased activity of many of our construction customers, our strong cash flow and increased acquisition activity, the overall sluggishness in the industrial economy tempers our near-term optimism," he said. Long-term, we believe the fundamental growth prospects for the U.S. economy are strong. Through past investments we’ve made to improve our platform, systems and product and service offering, we have positioned Airgas for growth when the economy improves."