Other highlights from Air Liquide’s first half of 2020 related to Covid-19 include tripling the production of intensive care ventilators in France and tripling the production of CryopAL’s medical oxygen tanks, Air Liquide reported today in its first half of 2020 results, which showed high sales resilience and significant margin improvement.
“This exceptional first half of the year once again demonstrates the group’s resilience in the face of this unprecedented health crisis,” Benoît Potier, Chairman and CEO of Air Liquide, said.
“Sales for the half year totalled more than €10bn, marking a limited decline of -3.2% on a comparable basis.”
“This reflects the solid performance of Gas & Services, which represent 96% of revenue, and of Global Markets & Technologies.”
Group revenue for the first half of 2020 totalled €10.27bn. Air Liquide said the limited decline in sales over the half year of -3.2% for the group and -2.7% for Gas & Services underlined the resilience of the business model despite the Covid-19 pandemic which affected all activities and regions.
Consolidated sales of Engineering & Construction (-41.3%) reflected the priority allocation of resources to internal projects as well as the impact of the pandemic which led to closure of the workshop in China for four weeks and to several projects being postponed by a few months, Air Liquide explained.
Global Markets & Technologies reduced the pace of its activity during the pandemic while pursuing its development with sales growth of +3.2% in the 1st half.
The group’s published revenue was down -6.2% as the slightly positive currency impact +0.1% was not sufficient to offset the strong negative energy impact of -2.7% and the significant scope impact of -0.4%.
Gas & Services revenue for the first half of 2020 reached €9.92bn. Sales as published were down -5.8%, negatively affected by unfavourable energy (-2.8%) and significant scope (-0.4%) impacts, despite the slightly positive currency impact (+0.1%), Air Liquide said.
Healthcare posted significant growth of +8.7%, which Air Liquide attributed to its teams being highly mobilised in the fight against Covid-19.
Electronics also enjoyed very solid growth of +2% (+8.9% excluding Equipment & Installations sales), which Air Liquide said was driven by very dynamic sales in carrier gases and advanced materials.
Industrial Merchant (-8.1%) was the hardest hit by the public health crisis, but price impacts remained strong at +2.9%.
Sales in Large Industries were down slightly, by -2.5% over the half year, due to a weaker demand in the second quarter in particular in Europe and the United States — two regions which were strongly affected by the pandemic, Air Liquide said.
“Within Gas & Services, Electronics sales increased; Healthcare, at the frontline of the pandemic, posted strong growth. Large Industries showed resilience, whereas Industrial Merchant was more impacted.”
Gas & Services revenue in the Americas totalled €3.97bn in the first half, marking a decline of -5.1% on a comparable basis.
North America was affected by the pandemic as of the end of March and after showing initial signs of a recovery in certain markets at the end of May, the activity stabilised in June.
Latin America, which was affected by the virus later in the second quarter, continues to fight against Covid-19.
Air Liquide said its Healthcare business remains fully committed to the fight against the pandemic, notably through the supply of medical oxygen and equipment, and posted sales growth of +5.4%, with strong momentum in Latin America.
Revenue in Europe was stable over the half year (+0.2%), reaching €3.44bn. The region was particularly impacted by the public health crisis as of mid-March, notably in Southern Europe, and activities have begun to gradually recover since the beginning of May.
Industrial Merchant, which was down -8.2%, was the most impacted by the public health crisis.
Healthcare activities, which account for more than 40% of Gas & Services sales in Europe, remain fully mobilised to fight against Covid-19 and saw revenue growth of +10.8% in the first half, Air Liquide said.
Revenue in Asia-Pacific reached €2.24bn in the first half, down -2.1% on a comparable basis. China was the first country to suffer the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a -2.5% decline in sales in the first quarter.
Air Liquide said the recovery in this country was also very fast, with revenue in China posting growth of +2.1% in the second quarter, with positive growth in all industrial activities. Part of the region remains affected by the pandemic and lockdown measures.
Revenue in the Middle East and Africa amounted to €269m, down -7.3% over the first half of the year on a comparable basis.
Air Liquide said Large Industries demonstrated its strong resilience despite a major customer maintenance turnaround during the first quarter, with the region’s two major units – in Saudi Arabia and South Africa – continuing to operate at a good level during the second quarter.
Healthcare, posted strong growth, notably in Saudi Arabia.
“Geographically speaking, activity levels reflect the evolution of the pandemic. China has returned to levels of solid growth, signs of a recovery are appearing in Europe, whereas the situation in the Americas remains contrasted,” Potier said.
Group operating income recurring (OIR) amounted to €1.81bn in the first half of 2020, stable as published and up slightly +0.2% on a comparable basis versus 2019.
The operating margin (OIR to revenue) stood at 17.6%, an improvement of +100 basis points compared with the first half of 2019, and of +50 basis points excluding the energy impact.
“This was driven by the ongoing efficiency programs in the amount of €200m, in line with the annual objective of more than €400m, and by an additional cost containment plan launched in response to the crisis,” Potier explained.
“The margin was also supported by the strength of the price policy and of the portfolio management.”
“Net profit improved by +1.8%. The cash flow to sales ratio was particularly high at 23.1%. The debt-to-equity ratio was down compared with its level at June 30, 2019.”
Potier concluded, “As 12-month investment opportunities remained dynamic, industrial investment decisions for the first half were high, at €1.3bn.”
“These decisions, a third of which are climate-related projects, include innovation investments and customer asset takeover opportunities, leading to greater industrial and environmental efficiency.”
“Air Liquide is a key player of the climate and the energy transition with oxygen and hydrogen. Thanks to its presence across all business sectors, the group has a major role to play in the current economic and societal transformation.”
“In a context of limited local lockdowns and progressive recovery during the second half of 2020, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to further increase its operating margin and to deliver net profit close to preceding year level, at constant exchange rates.”