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2021 Results: An excellent year across all performance criteria

Paris, France,
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Commenting on 2021, Benoît Potier, Chairman and CEO of Air Liquide, stated:

“In 2021, the Group achieved an excellent performance, in spite of the ongoing pandemic and the strong inflationary pressures mainly related to the sharp increase in energy prices in the second half.

Air Liquide’s teams have stepped up in all areas, whether in response to the covid-19 crisis, the significant acceleration in inflation or the energy transition challenge, once again demonstrating their strong reactivity and adaptability. We have taken action in the here and now, while at the same time preparing the future. Our investment momentum has been sustained, with the signature of numerous agreements in particular related to the energy transition.

The Group has delivered another year of profitable growth: Sales reached 23.3 billion euros, up +8.2% on a comparable basis, the operating margin increased by 70 basis points excluding the energy impact, and recurring net profit ([1]) rose 13.3% at constant exchange rates. 

All activities improved markedly: Gas & Services, which represents 95% of Group revenue, Engineering & Construction, as well as Global Markets & Technologies. All Gas & Services business lines and regions grew to high levels, with Asia growing by +6%, Europe by +7% and the Americas by +8%.

The Group further improved its operating margin thanks to an inflation-adapted pricing policy, significant efficiencies of 430 million euros and a dynamic management of its business portfolio. Faced with a sharp and sustained rise in energy prices, the Group has demonstrated both the strength of its business model – which allows it to automatically pass on these variations to its Large Industries customers – and its ability to rapidly adapt its pricing for Industrial Merchant customers.

Air Liquide’s balance sheet has been further strengthened. Recurring ROCE reached 9.3%, approaching the 2023–2024 target of more than 10%. Cash flow from operations remained high at 24.5% of sales, excluding the energy impact, and helped reduce debt while also financing our capital expenditures and the dividend. Investment decisions reached 3.6 billion euros for the year, and opportunities remained high at 3.3 billion euros, of which more than 40% are related to the energy transition. The dividend, which will be submitted to the shareholders’ vote in May, is proposed at 2.90 euros per share, which represents an increase of +5.5% that reflects our confidence in the future. Moreover, a free shares attribution will take place in June 2022.

With a business model that combines financial and extra-financial performance, Air Liquide is particularly well positioned in the markets of the future. In response, notably to the major challenges of climate change and the energy transition, the Group offers a wide range of solutions based on hydrogen and technologies to decarbonize industry. Contributing to a sustainable future is at the heart of our activity and of our strategy.

In 2022, assuming no significant economic disruption, Air Liquide is confident in its ability to further increase its operating margin and to deliver recurring net profit growth, at constant exchange rates.([2])”  


2021 Highlights


  • Announcement of a plan for the succession of Benoît Potier as Chief Executive Officer of Air Liquide, coupled with the implementation of new governance. Following the recommendations of the Appointments and Governance Committee, the Board of Directors, which is due to meet at the close of the 2022 General Meeting, will be called upon to renew Benoît Potier’s term of office as Chairman of the Board of Directors and to appoint François Jackow to succeed him as Chief Executive Officer with effect from June 1, 2022.

Sustainable development:‌

  • Presentation of ambitious sustainable development objectives, based on three pillars:

    • ACT for a low-carbon society: Air Liquide has set itself the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 33% reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2035 with reduction starting around 2025,  while developing a wide range of low-carbon solutions for its industrial customers so that they can reduce their own emissions.

    • Work toward better Healthcare by improving the quality of life of patients with chronic diseases in mature economies and by facilitating access to medical oxygen for rural communities in low- and middle-income countries.

    • Trust as the base to engage with our employees and to adhere to best governance practices.

  • Completion of the Group’s first green bond issue, which raised 500 million euros dedicated to several sustainable development projects, notably in hydrogen and biogas.

  • Partnership with Rothschild & Co and the Solar Impulse Foundation to launch a 200-million-euro investment fund to support the development of high-potential SMEs working on environmentally friendly solutions.

 Low-carbon hydrogen:

  • Numerous partnerships and initiatives to develop low-carbon hydrogen:

    • Launch of the world’s largest clean hydrogen infrastructure fund with a potential of 1.5 billion euros in partnership with TotalEnergies, VINCI and several international companies.

    • Partnership with Airbus and VINCI Airports to develop the use of hydrogen and accelerate decarbonization in the aviation sector.

    • Memorandum of Understanding signed with Airbus and Groupe ADP in preparation for the arrival of hydrogen at airports by 2035 as part of the development of hydrogen-powered aircraft.

    • Partnership with Eni aimed at investing in the development of the necessary infrastructures (logistics chain, refueling stations) for the expansion of hydrogen mobility in Italy.

    • Joint development agreement signed with Faurecia to design and produce on-board liquid hydrogen storage systems for heavy-duty vehicles.

    • Memorandum of Understanding with IVECO to accelerate the development of hydrogen heavy-duty mobility in Europe, through the development of hydrogen heavy-duty vehicles and the roll-out of hydrogen refueling stations.

    • Increased support to the Energy Observer, becoming a main partner, for four years, of this laboratory vessel that demonstrates the key role of hydrogen in the energy transition.

  • Low-carbon hydrogen production:

    • Memorandum of Understanding signed with Siemens Energy to develop high-capacity electrolyzers in Europe.

    • Acquisition of H2V Normandy, renamed Air Liquide Normand’Hy, aimed at building an electrolyzer of at least 200 MW.

    • Construction project in Germany of an industrial-size renewable hydrogen production unit that will be linked to the existing local Air Liquide pipeline infrastructure.

    • Ramping up of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen production unit based on membrane electrolysis in Canada, with a capacity of 20 MW.

    • Cooperation project with TotalEnergies to decarbonize hydrogen production on the TotalEnergies platform in Normandy.

Industry & decarbonization:

  • Long-term power purchase agreements for renewable energy in Belgium and the Netherlands to reduce the carbon footprint of our production plants.

  • Finalization of the acquisition of Sasol’s 16 Air Separation Units (ASUs) in Secunda, South Africa, with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions linked to oxygen production by 30% to 40% over the next 10 years.

  • In Kazakhstan, acquisition and integration by Air Liquide Munay Tech Gases (ALMTG), a 75% subsidiary of Air Liquide, of the industrial gas production plants at the Atyrau refinery. ALMTG will operate these production plants for KazMunayGas under a long-term contract.

  • Long-term investments and contracts to supply industrial gases. In China with BOE, a world leader in flat panels and an Internet of Things specialist, as well as a major producer of flash memory chips, and in steel with Shagang Group. In Russia with the Severstal steel company. Together with the chemicals company BASF, for its new battery materials site in Germany, and in South Korea to increase hydrogen and carbon monoxide volumes by 20% in the Yeosu industrial complex.

  • Memorandum of Understanding with Borealis, Esso S.A.F., TotalEnergies and Yara International ASA to develop CO2 capture and storage infrastructure that will contribute to the decarbonization of the Normandy industrial basin.

  • Selection by the European Commission of Kairos@C, a carbon capture and storage project developed with BASF to decarbonize the industrial site located in the Port of Antwerp, to receive funding from the European Innovation Fund.

  • Memorandum of Understanding signed with ArcelorMittal, aimed at implementing solutions to produce low-carbon steel in Dunkirk.

  • Launch of Qlixbi, a groundbreaking packaged gas offering for welders, in four new European countries (Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands) following its success in the United Kingdom.

  • New record-breaking year with 48 on-site contracts in Industrial Merchant.


  • Continued mobilization of teams in the fight against the pandemic, worldwide.

  • Acquisition of Betamed SA, a major player in the home healthcare business in Poland.


Group revenue for 2021 totaled 23,335 million euros, up +8.2% on a comparable basis. This strong sales growth in 2021 follows the year 2020 that saw the Group demonstrate resilience in an especially tough sanitary environment. Sales in 2021 were up +6% ([3]) compared with 2019. Notably driven by projects related to the energy transition, consolidated revenue from Engineering & Construction was up +55.4%. Global Markets & Technologies posted growth of +17.8%, which was buoyed by the momentum of the biogas market. Energy prices saw an exceptionally strong increase during the 2nd half of the year, especially in Europe, resulting in a significant energy impact on the sales, at +8.4% for 2021 and even +16.5% in the 4th quarter. Currency and significant scope impacts were negative, at -1.6% and -1.1% respectively. All in all, the Group reported growth of +13.9% in published revenue.

Gas & Services revenue in 2021 totaled 22,267 million euros, a strong comparable growth of +7.3%. Gas & Services sales were up +13.3% as published in 2021: the energy impact (+8.8%) hit record levels, especially toward the end of the year. This was partially offset by unfavorable currency (-1.6%) and significant scope (-1.2%) impacts. The significant scope impact results primarily from the acquisition of 16 Sasol air separation units in late June 2021, the divestment of Schülke in 2020 in Healthcare and the reduction or sale of the Group’s stakes in several non-strategic distributors in 2020 in Japan.

  • Gas & Services revenue in the Americas totaled 8,445 million euros in 2021, up by +7.6% on a comparable basis. Large Industries sales were up +7.6% driven by high demand, and the start-up and ramp-up of new units. The Industrial Merchant business continued to recover, with a +6.9% increase in revenue. Healthcare sales were up +13.7% for the year: teams remained focused on fighting the pandemic and business activity gradually returned to normal, particularly in the United States in proximity care. Electronics posted solid revenue growth of +5.2% in 2021.

  • Revenue in Europe was up +7.0% on a comparable basis in 2021 to 8,315 million euros. Large Industries sales (+5.2%) were driven by the strong customer activity in the Steel and Chemicals markets as well as a gradual recovery in Refining. Industrial Merchant activity grew strongly by +10.8%, benefiting from dynamic volumes in all markets and geographies, and an acceleration of pricing impacts especially in the 4th quarter. Healthcare posted revenue that was up by +4.7% on a comparable basis after an exceptionally strong growth of +9.7% in 2020: pandemic-related medical oxygen sales rose strongly in 2021, even if the 4th quarter sales were below the 2020 record level. Moreover, revenue benefited from the pick-up of Home Healthcare activity and surgeries in hospitals.

  • Revenue for the Asia-Pacific region in 2021 rose sharply by +6.4% on a comparable basis, totaling 4,790 million euros. Large Industries sales for the year rose steadily by +2.9%: after a highly robust 1st half of the year, they were down in the second half, mainly resulting from temporary measures of Dual Energy Control in China. The Industrial Merchant business saw a comparable growth of +10.2%, fueled by strong activity in China and the recovery across the rest of Asia. Electronics sales increased by +6.7% in 2021 on a comparable basis, with a significant contribution from Carrier Gases which benefited from the start-up and ramp-up of several units.

  • Revenue for 2021 in the Middle East and Africa reached 717 million euros, up +12.7% on a comparable basis. Large Industries sales benefited from strong hydrogen demand by customers in the Yanbu basin in Saudi Arabia. Air gases volumes rose sharply in South Africa, as 16 Sasol ASUs (the acquisition of which was finalized in late June) were integrated: in the 2nd half of the year, sales totaled 70 million euros and were recognized as part of the significant scope effect, hence excluded from the comparable growth in 2021. Industrial Merchant revenue continued to grow and Healthcare saw strong growth especially over the first three quarters.

Large Industries sales rose +5.5% on a comparable basis and were driven by strong demand in the Steel and Chemicals markets, as well as a recovery in Refining over the year. Electronics revenue rose +7.0% in a thriving market. Healthcare growth remained strong at +7.2% despite a high basis of comparison in 2020, with teams still focused on fighting against covid-19. The recovery in the Industrial Merchant business continued in 2021, with sales rising +8.4%, driven by a pricing impact of +3.6% for the year, which picked up to reach +7.0% in the 4th quarter.

Consolidated revenue from Engineering & Construction totaled 387 million euros in 2021, up strongly by +55.4% on a comparable basis. Over the year, order intake exceeded 1 billion euros for the first time since 2014, standing at 1,249 million euros. It benefited from positive momentum in Asia, which made up more than half of orders, as well as from the energy transition.

Global Markets & Technologies revenue for 2021 reached 681 million euros, representing a comparable growth of +17.8%. Biogas enjoyed strong momentum, benefiting from the ramp-up of new production units and the rise in sales prices, relating to the energy prices increase, especially in the United States.

Efficiencies([4]) for the year totaled 430 million euros, exceeding the annual target of 400 million euros.

Group Operating Income Recurring (OIR) reached 4,160 million euros, marking a sharp increase of +9.8% and of +12.7% on a comparable basis, which was much higher than the comparable sales growth of +8.2%. The operating margin (OIR to revenue) stood at 17.8% as published, an improvement of +70 basis points excluding the energy impact. On a reported basis, the margin declined by -70 basis points compared to 2020, due to the strong energy costs increase, which are contractually passed through to customers, therefore having a dilutive impact on the published margin. This performance reflected the Group’s capability to quickly translate steep and rapid increase of energy costs during the 2nd half of the year into prices. This also marked the third consecutive year of significant improvement in operating margin excluding the energy impact, following the performances seen in 2019 (+70 basis points) and 2020 (+80 basis points).

Net profit (Group share) stood at 2,572 million euros in 2021, up +5.6% as published and a significant increase of +8.9% excluding the currency impact. Recurring net profit (Group share)([5]) also amounted to 2,572 million euros. This represented a marked increase of +9.9%, and +13.3% excluding the currency impact, compared with recurring net profit (Group share) for 2020.

Net earnings per share, at 5.45 euros, were up +5.5% compared with 2020, in line with the increase in net profit (Group share).

Cash flow from operating activities before changes in net working capital amounted to 5,292 million euros, a marked increase of +7.3% and of +9.1% excluding the currency impact. This corresponds to a high level of 22.7% of sales and 24.5% excluding the energy impact, improving by +40 basis points compared with 2020.

Gross industrial capital expenditure amounted to 2,917 million euros compared with 2,630 million euros in 2020. This represented 12.5% of sales and 13.5% excluding the energy impact, reflecting strong project development. Financial investments amounted to 660 million euros in 2021, representing a marked increase compared with 129 million euros in 2020. These included the acquisition of Sasol’s units for approximately 480 million euros. A total of 21 acquisitions were completed in 2021. Net debt at December 31, 2021, reached 10,448 million euros.

Industrial investment decisions totaled close to 3.0 billion euros and were stable compared with 2020. Financial investment decisions reached 662 million euros in 2021 and included the acquisition of the units from Sasol for approximately 480 million euros. The 12-month portfolio of investment opportunities increased to 3.3 billion euros at the end of 2021, with new entries in the second half-year, notably related to Electronics in Asia and Large Industries. The investment backlog remained stable at the high level of 3.2 billion euros, appropriately distributed across various business sectors and geographies.

The additional contribution to sales of unit start-ups and ramp-ups totaled 345 million euros in 2021, including a 70 million euros contribution by the Sasol units in South Africa in the second half-year. The additional contribution to 2022 sales of unit start-ups and ramp-ups is expected to be between 410 million and 435 million euros. This includes approximately 135 million euros from the 16 units acquired from Sasol at the end of June 2021. Half of this amount will be recognized as part of the significant scope impact.

The return on capital employed after tax (ROCE) was 9.3% in 2021. Recurring ROCE ([6]) was identical (9.3%), representing a marked improvement compared with 8.6% in 2020 and in line with the ROCE target of more than 10% in 2023 or 2024.

At the General Meeting on May 4, 2022, the payment of a dividend of 2.90 euros per share will be proposed to shareholders for the 2021 fiscal year, representing an increase of +5.5% compared with the previous year. The ex-dividend date has been set for May 16, 2022, and the payment is scheduled for May 18, 2022. Moreover, a free shares attribution, on the basis of one free share for every 10 shares held, as well as the application of a loyalty bonus, are planned for June 2022.

Air Liquide’s Board of Directors, which met on February 15, 2022, approved the audited financial statements for the 2021 fiscal year. The statutory Auditors are in the process of issuing a report with an unqualified opinion.

As part of the implementation of the Company’s new mode of governance, announced on December 1, 2021, the Board of Directors, on the recommendation of the Appointments and Governance Committee chaired by Mr. Jean-Paul Agon, Lead Director, approved the draft resolutions which will be submitted to the General Meeting of May 4, 2022 in order notably to renew Mr. Benoît Potier’s office as Director, and to appoint Mr. François Jackow as Director, for a period of four years. The Board meeting which will be held at the close of the General Meeting will be called upon to renew Mr. Benoît Potier’s term of office as Chairman of the Board of Directors and to appoint Mr. François Jackow to succeed him as Chief Executive Officer with effect from June 1, 2022. In order to continue to benefit from Mr. Benoît Potier’s experience and from his in-depth knowledge of the Group and its strategic issues, certain specific missions will be entrusted to him in his capacity as Chairman of the Board, which he will exercise in close consultation with the new Chief Executive Officer, in compliance with the laws and the articles of association. The respective missions of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the Board of Directors with effect from June 1, 2022 will be presented in the Company’s Universal Registration Document for 2021 which will be published in March 2022 and in the updated internal regulations of the Board which will be published on the Company’s web site in due course.

On the recommendation of the Appointments and Governance Committee, the Board of Directors also approved the draft resolutions which will be submitted to the General Meeting of May 4, 2022 in order to:

  • Renew for a period of four years the term of office of Ms. Annette Winkler, an independent Director since 2014, Chair of the Environment and Society Committee and a member of the Appointments and Governance Committee. Ms. Annette Winkler will continue to provide the Board of Directors with the benefit of her experience as the former head of division of a major German industrial group with global reach and her knowledge of the automobile sector.

  • The Board took note that Mr. Jean-Paul Agon, whose term of office as Director will expire at the close of the General Meeting of May 2022, does not wish to seek renewal of his office. The Board thanked him very warmly for his contribution to the work of the Board of Directors which he has supported since 2010, for his exceptional commitment in his capacity as Lead Director and as Chair of the Appointments and Governance Committee, and for his participation in the work of the Remuneration Committee.

  • Moreover, Ms. Sin Leng Low whose term of office as Director will expire at the close of the General Meeting of May 2022 also indicated that she does not wish to seek renewal of her office as Director. The Board took due note and thanked Ms. Sin Leng Low very warmly for her contribution to the work of the Board of Directors of which she has been a member since 2014, and for her participation to the work of the Audit Committee of which she has been a member since 2015.

At the close of the General Meeting of May 4, 2022, and subject to the approval of the proposed resolutions, the Board of Directors would accordingly be composed of 12 members: 10 members elected by the shareholders, the vast majority of whom are independent (namely 80% independent Directors) including 5 women (representing 50%) and 4 foreign members, and 2 employee Directors.

The Board of Directors also decided to maintain, in the context of the new separate governance roles, the office of a Lead Director, who shall be appointed from among the independent Directors. A Lead Director, with unchanged powers, will thus be appointed to succeed Mr. Jean-Paul Agon at the Board meeting which will be held at the close of the General Meeting. The new composition of the Committees will be decided at that same Board meeting. This information will be communicated after the General Meeting.

Finally, the Board of Directors will submit to the vote of the General Meeting the elements of Mr. Benoît Potier’s remuneration for 2021, in his capacity as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, together with the information relating to the remuneration of all the corporate officers for 2021. The General Meeting will also be invited to decide upon the remuneration policy for the corporate officers which will apply to Mr. Benoît Potier (in his capacity as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the period from January 1, 2022 until May 31, 2022 and in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors with effect from June 1, 2022), to Mr. François Jackow (in his capacity as Chief Executive Officer with effect from June 1, 2022) and to the Directors.




  1. ^ [1] Excluding exceptional and significant transactions that have no impact on the operating income recurring.
  2. ^ [2] Operating margin excluding energy passthrough impact. Recurring net profit excluding exceptional and significant items that have no impact on the operating income recurring, and excluding the impact of any US tax reform in 2022.
  3. ^ [3] Due to the exceptional impact of the pandemic, a comparison with 2019 sales has been introduced for context in reviewing 2021 performance. The comparison between 2021 and 2019 is calculated by adding 2020 and 2021 comparable effects. It is given as a reference point and does not constitute an alternative performance measure. The comparable growths mentioned below are calculated compared to the same period of 2020 except when 2019 is mentioned.
  4. ^ [4] See definition in appendix.
  5. ^ [5] See definition and reconciliation in appendix.
  6. ^ [6] See definition and reconciliation in appendix.