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Linde Profit Beats Estimates on China, North America

Linde AG, the world’s second-biggest maker of industrial gases, reported first-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates on sales of liquefied gases in China and cylinder gas in North America.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization advanced 6.2 percent to 808 million euros ($1.06 billion), the Munich-based company said today. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated 802.5 million euros.

The gas maker is building two air-separation plants in Yantai and a plant for hydrogen and carbon in Chongqing in China as it boosts the proportion of sales it gets from emerging markets. Business was “robust” in North America, Linde added, echoing comments from larger rival Air Liquide SA last week that demand is rising in North America and developing economies.

“Our profitable growth trend is intact,” Chief Financial Officer Georg Denoke said on a conference call. “The start was softer from a global recovery perspective in January and February. But we have seen a very strong March, if not to say the strongest March ever.”

Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Reitzle said that he’s confident of meeting targets for earnings and sales growth this year as the company acquires Air Products & Chemicals Inc.’s home care business for $752 million.

Pace of Recovery

“The pace of economic recovery still varies from region to region,” Linde said in the release. “The highest growth rates were once again to be seen in the emerging economies. Robust trends were also visible in North America, whereas the increase in demand in Western Europe was relatively modest.”

The shares fell 1.6 percent to 126.50 euros at 9:52 a.m. in Frankfurt. Germany’s benchmark DAX index was down 0.4 percent at that time. Linde has gained 10 percent this year for a market value of 21.7 billion euros.

Quarterly sales rose 5.4 percent to 3.51 billion euros, beating a 3.47 billion-euro analyst estimate. Net income gained 1.1 percent to 287 million euros, ahead of a 268.3 million-euro prediction in the Bloomberg survey.

The company also reiterated a target for operating profit of at least 4 billion euros in 2014 and return on capital employed of at least 14 percent.

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