Air Products Q4 profit bolsters Airgas bid

By Ernest Scheyder

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Air Products and Chemicals Inc (APD.N: ) posted a better-than-expected profit and a bullish forecast, giving the industrial gas supplier ammunition in its $5.5 billion effort to take over rival Airgas Inc (ARG.N: ).

Air Products earned $272.1 million, or $1.25 per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter, besting the year-ago period’s $246 million, or $1.14 per share.

The company, which took a $22 million charge during the quarter for the takeover effort, wants Airgas’ vast network of retail distribution locations.

Excluding that charge, worth about 10 cents per share, Air Products earned $1.35 per share for the quarter.

By that measure, analysts expected earnings of $1.32 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company’s capital expenditure forecast of $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion for 2011 “is a very good signal for future tonnage business,” Air Products’ second-largest unit, said Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co analyst Christopher Shaw.

Earlier this month a Delaware Chancery Court judge refused to throw out a new Airgas bylaw that will advance Airgas’ annual meeting by eight months, to January 2011. That bylaw lets Air Products nominate three more members to the Airgas board after its first three nominees were seated last month.

Airgas said it will appeal the ruling.

Air Products said its fiscal fourth quarter revenue rose 10.4 percent to $2.35 billion, in line with Wall Street’s expectations.

“We expect a continued, gradual global economic recovery in 2011,” Air Products Chief Executive Officer John McGlade said in a statement.

For the fiscal first quarter, Air Products expects earnings per share in the range of $1.31 to $1.35 per share. Analysts expect $1.31 per share for the period.

Shares of Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Air Products, which closed Wednesday at $83.10, have traded between $64.13 and $85.44 in the past 52 weeks.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Derek Caney)

Air Products Q4 profit bolsters Airgas bid