Those were the words of Benoît Potier, Air Liquide’s Chairman and CEO, as he reflected on the Group’s full year 2020 results released today (10th Feb).
Read more: Air Liquide reports full year 2020 results
Despite a challenging year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the French industrial gas giant reported revenue of €20.5bn for 2020, and net profit of €2.4bn.
“The Group was fully mobilised to serve its customers and patients in 2020, which was an out of the ordinary year, whilst being resolutely committed to the fight against Covid-19,” Potier said.
“Over the full year, 2020 sales were practically stable on a comparable basis, with business back to growth in the fourth quarter.”
“The Gas & Services sales, which account for 96% of Group revenue, held up well, as did Global Markets & Technologies which retained their momentum. On a comparable basis, business was supported by strong sales growth in Healthcare and Electronics.”
Read more: Air Liquide 2020 financials: Highlights
“Geographically, the situation was extremely varied with Europe faring well, driven by demand in Healthcare, and a solid performance from the developing economies, particularly China, and Eastern European and Latin American countries.”
Gas & Services revenue in the Americas totalled €7.8bn in 2020, a decline of -3.7% on a comparable basis.
In North America, sales started improving sequentially in the 3rd quarter but remained down compared with 2019.
Sales were up markedly in Latin America in 2020, mainly driven by a start-up in Large Industries in Argentina and strong demand for medical oxygen.
Large Industries revenue in the region was up +1.4%. Industrial Merchant saw a strong sequential recovery over the second half of the year, but annual revenue remained down by -7.1%.
Healthcare is still fully committed to the fight against the pandemic notably with the supply of medical oxygen and posted annual sales growth of +7.7%.
Electronics posted solid growth of +5.2%.
With comparable growth up +1.3% in 2020, sales in Europe reached €6.8bn.
Industrial activities, which were particularly affected by the public health crisis from mid-March, started to recover from the beginning of May and markedly accelerated its recovery during the second half of the year.
Large Industries sales were down by -1.0% over the year.
Industrial Merchant recovered during the 2nd half of the year, but its annual revenue, which was down -5.6%, remains impacted by the crisis.
Healthcare activities were strongly mobilised in the fight against Covid-19 and posted revenue growth of +9.7% over the year.
Revenue in Asia-Pacific remained stable in 2020 on a comparable basis, and stood at €4.5bn, with all industrial activities posting growth during the 4th quarter.
China (+3.4%) brought a strong contribution thanks to a quick recovery across all activities. The recovery was slower in the rest of the region.
Large Industries (+0.2%) was driven by the ramp-up of a unit in South Korea.
Industrial Merchant (-3.6%) remained sluggish, despite the strong recovery in sales in China during the 2nd half of the year.
Electronics (+3.6%) momentum was very dynamic with growth exceeding +10% over the year excluding Equipment & Installation sales.
Middle East and Africa
Comparable growth was down -2.6% in 2020 in the Middle East and Africa, and revenues reached €564m.
Following a customer turnaround at the beginning of the year, Large Industries sales were up during the 2nd half of the year.
Industrial Merchant revenue, which was strongly hit by the Covid-19 crisis during the second quarter, saw a return to growth during the 4th quarter.
Healthcare is committed to the fight against Covid-19 and posted strong growth across the region.