Airgas Increases First Quarter Dividend by 15%

  Airgas Increases First Quarter Dividend by 15%  Business Wire  RADNOR, Pa. -- May 1, 2014  Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), one of the nation’s leading suppliers of industrial, medical, and specialty gases, and related products, today announced that its Board of Directors has increased the quarterly cash dividend on the Company’s common stock by 15%, from $0.48 per share to $0.55 per share. The dividend will be payable on June 30, 2014 to shareholders of record as of June 13, 2014.  “Despite the sluggishness in the U.S. industrial economy during our fiscal year 2014, we delivered adjusted earnings per diluted share* of $4.72, up 9% over the prior year. In addition, we generated record free cash flow* of $441 million on adjusted cash from operations* of $776 million,” said Airgas Executive Chairman Peter McCausland. “We are expecting another solid year of 6% to 10% growth in EPS in fiscal year 2015, and we remain confident in Airgas’ long-term growth prospects. Our strong cash flow and financial stability enable us to increase the quarterly dividend while continuing to fund our growth strategies.”  * See attached reconciliations and computations of the non-GAAP financial measures adjusted earnings per diluted share, adjusted cash from operations, and free cash flow.  About Airgas, Inc.  Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), through its subsidiaries, is one of the nation’s leading suppliers of industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hardgoods, such as welding equipment and related products. Airgas is a leading U.S. producer of atmospheric gases with 16 air separation plants, a leading producer of carbon dioxide, dry ice, and nitrous oxide, one of the largest U.S. suppliers of safety products, and a leading U.S. supplier of refrigerants, ammonia products, and process chemicals. More than 16,000 employees work in approximately 1,100 locations, including branches, retail stores, gas fill plants, specialty gas labs, production facilities and distribution centers. Airgas also markets its products and services through e-Business, catalog and telesales channels. Its national scale and strong local presence offer a competitive edge to its diversified customer base. For more information, please visit www.airgas.com.  This press release contains statements that are forward looking, as that term is defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 or by the SEC in its rules, regulations and releases. These statements include, but are not limited to the Company’s expectations regarding its fiscal year 2015 earnings and its long-term growth prospects. Forward-looking statements also include any statement that is not based on historical fact, including statements containing the words "believes," "may," "plans," "will," "could," "should," "estimates," "continues," "anticipates," "intends," "expects," and similar expressions. We intend that such forward-looking statements be subject to the safe harbors created thereby. All forward-looking statements are based on current expectations regarding important risk factors and should not be regarded as a representation by us or any other person that the results expressed therein will be achieved. Airgas assumes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason, except as required by law. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement include: adverse changes in customer buying patterns or weakening in the operating and financial performance of our customers, any of which could negatively impact our sales and our ability to collect our accounts receivable; postponement of projects due to economic conditions; customer acceptance of price increases; increases in energy costs and other operating expenses at a faster rate than our ability to increase prices; changes in customer demand resulting in our inability to meet minimum product purchase requirements under long-term supply agreements and the inability to negotiate alternative supply arrangements; supply cost pressures; shortages and/or disruptions in the supply chain of certain gases, including but not limited to the continued or increased disruption in our helium supply chain; EPA rulings and the pace and manner of U.S. compliance with the Montreal Protocol as they relate to the production and import of Refrigerant-22 (also known as HCFC-22 or R-22); higher than expected expenses associated with the expansion of our telesales business, our strategic pricing initiatives and other strategic growth initiatives; increased industry competition; our ability to successfully identify, consummate, and integrate acquisitions; our ability to achieve anticipated acquisition synergies; operating costs associated with acquired businesses; our continued ability to access credit markets on satisfactory terms; significant fluctuations in interest rates; the impact of changes in credit market conditions on our customers; our ability to effectively leverage our new SAP system to improve the operating and financial performance of our business; higher than expected costs related to our Business Support Center transition; changes in tax and fiscal policies and laws; increased expenditures relating to compliance with environmental and other regulatory initiatives; the impact of new environmental, healthcare, tax, accounting, and other regulations; the extent and duration of sluggish conditions in the U.S. economy, including in particular, the U.S. industrial economy; the economic recovery in the U.S.; catastrophic events and/or severe weather conditions; political and economic uncertainties associated with current world events; and other factors described in the Company's reports, including its March 31, 2013 Form 10-K, subsequent Forms 10-Q, and other forms filed by the Company with the SEC.  Reconciliations of Non-GAAP Financial Measures (Unaudited)  Adjusted Earnings per Diluted Share and Earnings Guidance  Reconciliations of adjusted earnings per diluted share and earnings guidance:                                                                                               Year Ended                                                March 31,                                                2014       2013 Earnings per diluted share                     $ 4.68      $ 4.35 State income tax benefits                        (0.04 )     - Loss on the extinguishment of debt               0.08        - Gain on sale of businesses                       -           (0.07 ) Restructuring and other special charges, net    -         0.07   Adjusted earnings per diluted share            $ 4.72     $ 4.35                                                                                                                                                                                          (Guidance Range)                                              Year        Year Ending                                              Ended       March 31, 2015                                              March 31,                                              2014        Low        High                                                                      Earnings per diluted share                   $ 4.68      $ 5.00     $ 5.20                                                                      Adjustments to earnings per diluted share: State income tax benefits                      (0.04 )     -          - Loss on the extinguishment of debt            0.08      -        -                                                                          Adjusted earnings per diluted share          $ 4.72     $ 5.00    $ 5.20  Year-over-year change                                     6    %    10   %                                                                       The Company believes its adjusted earnings per diluted share financial measure provides investors meaningful insight into its earnings performance without the impact of net Business Support Center restructuring and other special charges, the gain on the sale of businesses, benefits from the changes in state income tax rates and law, and the loss on the extinguishment of debt. Non-GAAP financial measures should be read in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, as non-GAAP financial measures are merely a supplement to, and not a replacement for, GAAP financial measures. It should also be noted that the Company’s adjusted earnings per diluted share financial measure may be different from the adjusted earnings per diluted share financial measures provided by other companies.  Adjusted Cash from Operations, Adjusted Capital Expenditures, and Free Cash Flow  Reconciliations and computations of adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow:                                                                                                       Year Ended                                                    March 31, (In thousands)                                     2014          2013                                                                    Net cash provided by operating activities          $ 744,860      $ 550,268                                                                    Adjustments to net cash provided by operating activities: Stock issued for the Employee Stock Purchase         17,313         17,088 Plan Excess tax benefit realized from the exercise of    13,668       36,160    stock options Adjusted cash from operations                       775,841      603,516                                                                      Capital expenditures                                 (354,587 )     (325,465 )                                                                    Adjustments to capital expenditures: Proceeds from sales of plant and equipment           15,483         15,693 Operating lease buyouts                             4,420        3,946     Adjusted capital expenditures                       (334,684 )    (305,826 )                                                                    Free cash flow                                     $ 441,157     $ 297,690                                                                      Net cash used in investing activities              $ (543,584 )   $ (392,859 ) Net cash used in financing activities              $ (218,101 )   $ (115,686 )                                                                     The Company believes its adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow financial measures provide investors meaningful insight into its ability to generate cash from operations, which is available for servicing debt obligations and for the execution of its business strategies, including acquisitions, the prepayment of debt, the payment of dividends, or to support other investing and financing activities. The Company’s free cash flow financial measure has limitations and does not represent the residual cash flow available for discretionary expenditures. Certain non-discretionary expenditures such as payments on maturing debt obligations are excluded from the Company’s computation of its free cash flow financial measure. Non-GAAP financial measures should be read in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, as non-GAAP financial measures are merely a supplement to, and not a replacement for, GAAP financial measures. It should also be noted that the Company’s adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow financial measures may be different from the adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow financial measures provided by other companies.  Contact:  Airgas, Inc. Investor & Media Contact: Barry Strzelec, 610-902-6256 barry.strzelec@airgas.com or Investor Contact: Joseph Marczely, 610-263-8277 joseph.marczely@airgas.com or Media Contact: Sarah Stockton-Brown, 610-263-8260 sarah.stockton-brown@airgas.com  
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