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Annual Results

How to understand and analyze them

On February 10, 2021, Air Liquide published its 2020 Annual Results. This is a highlight in the Group’s year and an opportunity for your magazine Stock & Share to take a closer look at this key moment for listed companies.

Listed companies, such as Air Liquide, must publish regular financial information for their shareholders and all financial market participants. The publication of the financial results are part of this process – each year, it provides an overview of the company’s performance and results and gives a precise view of the momentum of its business, projects and outlook.

What information should you look at?

For the year ended, each company details:

  • its main financial indicators (revenue, operating income and net profit, net earnings per share, etc.), some of which may be listed by activity or geographic region;
  • its management report featuring the complete financial performance;
  • the highlights.

All these items make it possible to compare the company’s performance to previous years, to understand the impact of any exceptional event on its activity, to make projections for the coming year, and to compare several companies in the same business sector.

Is the strategy of the company that you have invested in a success over time?

When you study a company’s results year after year, and in particular certain key indicators, you are able to better understand its businesses, form an opinion on the quality of its operating performance and the relevance of its strategic choices. Note that these key indicators may vary according to the company’s business sector. For Air Liquide, they are mainly: revenue, operating margin, net profit (Group share) or ROCE.

Some of these indicators may be presented both as “published data” and “comparable data”. The latter enables the company’s performance to be understood by “removing” the impact of external events (such as exchange rate or energy prices) or exceptional events, like the acquisition of a company, to facilitate a comparison from one year to the next. 

Feeling a bit lost? Don’t worry, we will tell you more about these indicators below:

Revenue

Revenue is the sum of the sales of products and services of a company.

When the revenue is growing, it means that the company has sold more products and services, has increased its prices, or has sold more products and services with a higher added value, i.e. at a higher price.

Operating income recurring & Operating margin

Operating income recurring is the difference between the revenue and the current operating expenses (procurement, wages, depreciation and amortization expense, provisions). It excludes income and expenses considered non-operational or not current, for example, the sale of an asset or group of large assets, the cost of debt or taxes. In other words, it explains the gains a company makes from its current operations.

The ratio of the operating income recurring to revenue gives the operating margin.

The more the company is able to create value from its current activity, the higher the operating margin. Beyond the level of this operating margin, which may vary significantly from one business sector to another, it is important to study the company’s capacity to maintain or increase the margin level each year.

Learn more: the change in Air Liquide’s operating margin is often stated “excluding energy”. Why?

Because Air Liquide transfers energy costs to its customers at cost price, which means that there is no impact on the Group’s operating income recurring, whatever the energy price. However, this rebilling at cost price impacts revenue. The operating margin therefore fluctuates as energy prices change, without creating added value. This is why Air Liquide provides a margin ratio excluding energy.

Net profit (Group share)

Net profit shows the difference between revenue and all the company’s expenses. It is the earnings that the company has generated over the period after paying its operating expenses, amortizing its investments, paying its financial charges, and paying its taxes.

Net profit (Group share) shows the Group’s share in that profit, i.e. the Group’s net profit after deducting the portion given to minority shareholders of the subsidiaries that the Group does not wholly own.

This indicator is then used to calculate other key indicators, such as earnings per share.

ROCE (Return On Capital Employed)

The return on capital employed is a ratio that measures the profitability of investments made by a company, comparing the net profit generated to the share capital used (industrial capital expenditure, non-material assets, debt, etc.) to achieve that profit. It is a relevant indicator for companies that make significant investments. For example, a 10% ROCE indicates that a company generates €10 in net operating profit for each €100 of mobilized share capital.

ROCE is an interesting indicator for comparing companies in a single business sector. It is an indicator that evolves slowly (apart from exceptional operations) given that the profitability of new projects is diluted by the amount of all the past investments still present on the balance sheet.

Beyond the figures, publications of results are also accompanied by a retrospective look at the year’s highlights (launch of new products, contracts signed, innovations, etc.) that illustrate the company’s momentum and reflect its strategy.

Lastly, the publications of results are the company’s opportunity to share its short- and long-term outlook. Key information you need – as a shareholder – to participate in the Annual General Meeting on an informed basis or – as a prospective shareholder – to decide whether or not to invest in the company.

Find out more: 

Air Liquide Group’s 2020 Annual Results

2020 Annual Results: interview with Benoît Potier

Article published on February 16, 2021