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Linde Quarterly Earnings Miss Estimates as CEO Reitzle Goes

Linde AG, the world’s largest industrial gas supplier, reported first-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates as the strength of the euro continued to hurt results.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 2.7 percent to 927 million euros ($1.3 billion), the Munich-based company said in a statement. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 945 million euros. Currency effects shaved 215 million euros off revenue and 51 million euros off operating profit.

“Economic growth is still anything but strong,” Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Reitzle, who retires this month, said in the statement. “Exchange rate effects also continued to have an adverse impact on our business performance.”

It was Reitzle’s last full quarter at the helm of a company he has spent a decade transforming from a diversified conglomerate into an industrial gases specialist. He became chairman of Holcim Ltd. April 29 and will be succeeded at Linde on May 20 by Wolfgang Buechele, who was previously CEO of Finnish paper-chemical maker Kemira Oyj.

Linde shares fell 2.1 percent to 145.25 euros at 10:56 a.m. in Frankfurt, taking the decline to 4.5 percent this year and giving Linde a market value of 27 billion euros.

U.S. Sales

The euro has appreciated more than 6 percent against the dollar in 12 months, reducing sales in the U.S. converted into the European currency. Revenue from North America accounted for more than a fifth of total sales last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Linde reiterated its 2016 targets of Ebitda of at least 5 billion euros and a reported return on capital employed of about 13 percent, excluding currency effects. The company expects a 10 percent return on capital this year on a “moderate” improvement in operating profit.

Revenue rose 1.5 percent to 4.05 billion euros in the quarter.

The dollar, Australian dollar, South African rand and Brazilian real had the biggest effect in holding back sales, Jeremy Redenius, a London-based analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note to clients.

“The industrial gases business remains attractive with concentrated markets, take-or-pay contracts, and a steady stream of new outsourcing customers,” said Redenius, who has an outperform recommendation on Linde.

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