Q1 2023: Strong sales growth and solid investment momentum
- Press Releases
Commenting on sales in the first quarter of 2023, François Jackow, Chief Executive Oﬃcer of the Air Liquide Group, stated:
Air Liquide started 2023 with a very solid performance. In the first quarter, growth was higher than in the fourth quarter and its investment momentum remained strong.
Group sales increased by +6.2% on a comparable basis, after growth of +4.5% in the fourth quarter. As published, sales were up by +4.2% year-over-year, integrating in particular the decline in energy prices, whose variations are passed on to Large Industries customers. Revenue reached 7.2 billion euros, including 6.9 billion euros for the Gas & Services business.
The Gas & Services business, which represents 96% of the Group’s revenue, was up +6.7% on a comparable basis and that of Global Markets & Technologies was up +2.8%, with divestitures impacting growth this quarter. Sales to third-party Engineering & Construction customers decreased by -18.6%; the outlook remaining solid with a high level of internal and external order intake.
Within Gas & Services, all our geographies posted comparable growth, in particular the Americas. By business line, Industrial Merchant and Electronics remained on a strong upward trend; growth in Healthcare accelerated and Large Industries recovered compared to the fourth quarter in a more favorable energy price environment in Europe.
In line with the priorities of its strategic plan, ADVANCE, Air Liquide continued to improve its operational performance. The Group generated significant efficiencies of 91 million euros, up +18.1% year-over-year despite an inflationary environment unfavorable to savings on purchases, and continued dynamic management of its business portfolio. The Group’s ability to create value allows it to adjust its prices in Industrial Merchant (+13%) while preserving sales volumes. The cashflow progressed by +14.3% in the first quarter.
Investment decisions amounted to close to 800 million euros. 12-month investment opportunities continued to rise, reaching 3.4 billion euros. More than 40% of these opportunities are related to the energy transition, with in particular decarbonization projects in the United States.
In 2023, the Group will continue deployment of its ADVANCE strategic plan. Air Liquide is conﬁdent in its ability to further increase its operating margin and to deliver recurring net proﬁt growth, at constant exchange rates.
Highlights of the 1st quarter 2023
- Signature by Air Liquide and Sasol of Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) to secure a total capacity of 480 MW of renewable power to supply Sasol’s Secunda site, in South Africa, where Air Liquide operates the biggest oxygen production site in the world. For Air Liquide, this will represent an annual reduction in its CO2 emissions of more than 850,000 tonnes that will notably contribute to the targeted reduction by 30% to 40% of the CO2 emissions associated with oxygen production by 2031.
- Appointment of Diana Schillag, member of the Executive Committee in charge of Healthcare activities, Group Procurement and Efficiency Programs, as Head of Sustainable Development and the Group’s Societal Programs, including the Air Liquide Foundation in addition to her current role. Diana Schillag will take up her new responsibilities on May 4, the day after the Group General Meeting, replacing Fabienne Lecorvaisier, who will leave the Group on that date to focus on non-executive mandates.
- Annual publication of the Air Liquide Sustainability Report, highlighting progress in this area as well as additional objectives, in particular for scope 3 and biodiversity.
- Inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Europe Index, an index established by S&P Global that assesses the progress of companies in terms of sustainable development.
- Decision with TotalEnergies to create a 50/50 joint venture to develop a network of more than 100 hydrogen refueling stations for trucks on major European highways. This initiative will facilitate access to hydrogen, making it possible to develop its use in the transportation of goods and contribute to strengthening the hydrogen sector.
- Selection of Air Liquide’s autothermal reforming (ATR) technology for a demonstration project, owned and operated by INPEX CORPORATION, for the large-scale production of hydrogen and low-carbon ammonia, a first in Japan.
- Launch of a project for an innovative industrial-scale ammonia cracking pilot plant in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. Transformed into ammonia, hydrogen can be easily transported over long distances. Equipped with innovative technology, this unit will enable the conversion of ammonia into hydrogen (H2), with an optimized carbon footprint.
Industry & Decarbonization
- Investment of around 60 million euros to modernize two Air Separation Units (ASU) operated by Air Liquide in the Tianjin industrial area, China, as part of the renewal of a long-term contract with YLC, a subsidiary of the Bohua group. The electrification of these two ASUs will prevent the emission of 370,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is comparable to the emissions related to the electricity consumption of more than one million Chinese households.
- Decarbonization and reduction of energy consumption: as part of a long-term contract, implementation of an innovative solution to support the conversion of the Verallia plant in Pescia, Italy, from traditional combustion to optimized oxycombustion on the occasion of the construction of a new glass furnace on the site.
- Announcement of the signature of 52 new long-term contracts for on-site production in its Industrial Merchant business line in 2022, following a record number of 48 new contracts in 2021 and continuous progress for more than five years.
- Early bond redemption, for a total of 382 million US dollars, at the end of a Tender Offering process for two series of US dollar bonds maturing in 2026 for the first and 2046 for the second. This transaction enables the Group to reinforce its financing structure.
Group revenue totaled 7,174 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2023, up a strong +6.2% on a comparable basis. As published Group sales were up +4.2% with an energy impact (-2.0%) negative for the first time in 2 years and neutral currency (-0.1%) and significant scope (+0.1%) impacts.
Gas & Services revenue reached 6,893 million euros, up sharply by +6.7% on a comparable basis. As published revenue for Gas & Services were up +4.6% in the 1st quarter of 2023, with a negative energy impact of -2.1% and neutral currency (-0.1%) and significant scope (+0.1%) impacts.
- Gas & Services revenue in the Americas region totaled 2,629 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2023, showing a dynamic comparable growth of +9.2%. Industrial Merchant sales were up sharply by +13.2%, supported by price increases that remained high (+9.9%) and volumes which are back to positive. The increase in prices in proximity care in the United States and the dynamism of Home Healthcare in Canada were the main contributors to the strong growth in Healthcare revenue (+11.2%). Large Industries sales were down -3.0% impacted by customer turnarounds. Lastly, Electronics sales remained stable (-1.0%) this quarter, with no new unit start-ups.
- Revenue in Europe was up +5.5% during the 1st quarter of 2023 and reached 2,639 million euros. In Industrial Merchant, the strong increase in sales of +22.1% benefited from price increases that remained very high at +21.8%. Healthcare sales were up +5.7%, driven by strong development of diabetes treatment in Home Healthcare and higher medical gas prices in response to inflation. Strongly impacted by high energy prices in the 2nd half of 2022, activity in Large Industries saw a rebound in the 1st quarter of 2023: lower energy prices supported sales down by -4.1%, a sharp upturn following a -18% decline in the 4th quarter of 2022.
- Sales in Asia-Pacific were up +4.8% on a comparable basis in the 1st quarter of 2023 and amounted to 1,385 million euros. They were supported by price increases of +9.9% in Industrial Merchant, leading to sales rising by +11.0%, and by the continued strong growth in revenue in the Electronics business (+10.5%). In Large Industries, sales were down by -5.1%, impacted in particular by weak demand and customer turnarounds.
- Revenue in the Middle East and Africa reached 240 million euros, up +4.6%. Industrial Merchant sales were down slightly, impacted by divestitures in the Middle East in 2022. Large Industries revenue grew strongly in Egypt and South Africa. The Home Healthcare business also posted strong growth.
While the dynamism of the Industrial Merchant and Electronics activities continued in the 1st quarter of 2023, Healthcare became the 3rd growth driver. Industrial Merchant revenue continued to grow strongly (+14.8%), supported by a high price effect of +12.9% and growing volumes. Large Industries sales, down -3.6% in a context of weak demand, showed a strong sequential improvement linked to the recovery of activity in Europe in a more favorable environment of reduced energy prices. Electronics revenue posted dynamic growth (+10.4%), driven in particular by the ramp-up of carrier gas units, dynamic growth in sales of specialty materials, and strong Equipment & Installations sales in all regions. Lastly, Healthcare revenue growth accelerated (+7.7%) in the 1st quarter, due especially to the increase in medical gas prices in an inflationary context and the dynamism of Home Healthcare, particularly in Europe and Canada.
Consolidated revenue from Engineering & Construction totaled 87 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2023, down -18.6% compared to the high sales in the 1st quarter of 2022. Order intake amounted to 366 million euros, up sharply (+39%) compared to the 1st quarter of 2022.
Sales in Global Markets & Technologies totaled 194 million euros in the 1st quarter, up +2.8%. Organic growth reached +16.0%, excluding the divestiture of the biogas distribution for mobility and the manufacture of small-scale cryogenic vessels businesses. Order intake for Group projects and third-party customers amounted to 240 million euros, up +12% compared to 2022.
In the 1st quarter of 2023, industrial and financial investment decisions amounted to 0.8 billion euros. The investment backlog stood at a very high level of 3.5 billion euros, stable compared to the 4th quarter of 2022.
The additional contribution to sales of unit start-ups and ramp-ups totaled 66 million euros in the 1st quarter of 2023. Over the year, it is expected to be between 300 and 330 million euros.
The 12-month portfolio of investment opportunities increased to the high level of 3.4 billion euros at the end of March.
In an inflationary environment, the price effect in the Industrial Merchant activity remained very high, in the 1st quarter of 2023, at +12.9%. Efficiencies reached 91 million euros, up +18.1% compared to the 1st quarter of 2022. Portfolio management continued in the 1st quarter with 2 acquisitions in Industrial Merchant in the United States and Italy, and the divestiture of Large Industries activities in Trinidad and Tobago.
Cash flow from operating activities before changes in net working capital amounted to 1,600 million euros, up sharply by +14.3% compared to the 1st quarter of 2022 and by +12.3% excluding currency impact and an exceptional indemnity payment received in the 1st quarter. In particular, cash flow from operating activities ensures the financing of industrial investments, which amounted to 815 million euros.
In the 1st quarter of 2023, the Group was active in the field of energy transition in order to reduce CO2 emissions from its own assets and those of its customers. It includes in particular the electrification of several ASUs in China, the signing of major renewable energy power purchase agreements in South Africa and the implementation of an oxy-combustion solution for a customer in the glass industry. In addition, the Group announced 2 projects in the hydrogen value chain: upstream, the construction of an industrial-scale pilot ammonia cracking unit, and downstream, the creation of a joint venture with TotalEnergies to develop a network of hydrogen stations in Europe. Finally, an additional “scope 3” objective and new biodiversity commitments were also announced in the 1st quarter.
- ^ Operating margin excluding energy passthrough impact. Net proﬁt recurring excluding exceptional and signiﬁcant transactions that have no impact on the operating income recurring.
- ^ Efficiencies represent a sustainable cost reduction resulting from an action plan on a specific project. Efficiencies are identified and managed on a per project basis. Each project is followed by a team composed in alignment with the nature of the project (purchasing, operations, human resources...).
Q1 2023 - ENG - PR + Activity ReportDownload the document PDF (366.99 KB)