RADNOR, PA - May 3, 2012 -- Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, medical, and specialty gases, and related supplies, today reported strong performance in sales, operating income, and earnings for its fourth quarter ended March 31, 2012. Business trends reflect growth across the Company's diverse customer base with particular strength in large manufacturing, petrochemical, and energy customers.
Fourth quarter adjusted earnings per diluted share* were a record $1.11, an increase of 26% from $0.88 in the prior year. Results included SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense of $0.09 and $0.04 per diluted share for the current and prior year quarters, respectively, and the current quarter reflected the benefit of share repurchases which offset the incremental SAP costs.
"Our performance was very strong this quarter across most of our core business, with particular strength in manufacturing, petrochemical and energy customers, and noticeable improvement in our construction customer base, despite a weak new project market," said Airgas Chief Executive Officer Peter McCausland. "Our product line adjacency businesses also performed well relative to our expectations, highlighted by strong pre-season demand in our refrigerants business that contributed nicely to our earnings this quarter."
Fourth quarter sales were $1.24 billion, an increase of 13% over the prior year. Same-store sales grew 11% in the quarter, with hardgoods up 15% and gas and rent up 9%. Acquisitions contributed sales growth of 2% in the quarter. Sequentially, total sales increased 8% from the third quarter, reflecting the impact of two additional selling days, the falloff of the holiday impact, and continued business growth. Sequentially, sales per day increased 4% from the third quarter on a consolidated basis and increased 3% in the Distribution business segment.
Adjusted operating margin* of 12.2% for the fourth quarter included 90 basis points of impact from SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense. Prior year adjusted operating margin* of 12.2% included only 50 basis points of impact from SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense.
"The strength of our hardgoods same-store sales growth relative to gas and rent, and the sales mix shift within hardgoods to welding and automation equipment, reflect the continued modest expansion and reinvestment we're seeing by larger customers in the manufacturing-intensive regions of the U.S.," said Airgas Chief Operating Officer Michael L. Molinini. "While the mix shift has a dilutive effect on our gross margin, we have continued to leverage our national footprint and industry-leading platform to increase our underlying operating margin and expand our return on capital* to 12.5% this quarter, 60 basis points over the prior year. A continuation of current business trends, coupled with the future benefits of our SAP implementation, indicates very attractive prospects for Airgas."
For the full year, sales increased 12% from the prior year to $4.7 billion. Total same-store sales increased 10%, with hardgoods up 14% and gas and rent up 7%, while acquisitions contributed 2% sales growth for the year.
Full year adjusted earnings per diluted share* were a record $4.11, an increase of 23% from $3.35 in the prior year. Results included SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense of $0.34 and $0.14 per diluted share for the current and prior year, respectively, and the current year reflected the benefit of share repurchases, which offset the incremental SAP costs.
"Our record sales and earnings performance this year is a testament to the value of our investment in organic growth initiatives such as our Strategic Accounts program, as well as our strong operating culture and customer-centric approach to doing business," said McCausland. "Our acquisition pipeline continues to improve, and in fiscal 2012 we acquired eight businesses with aggregate annual revenues of more than $106 million, including our recent purchase of Nordan Smith with 17 locations across Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama."
Free cash flow* for the year was $262 million, compared to $387 million in the prior year, and adjusted cash from operations* was $593 million for the year, compared to $617 million in the prior year. The decrease in free cash flow from the prior year reflects an increase in capital expenditures and working capital to support strong sales growth.
During the fiscal 2011 fourth quarter, the Company completed a $300 million share repurchase program, repurchasing 4.78 million shares at an average price of $62.76. During the first quarter of fiscal 2012, the Company completed an additional $300 million share repurchase program, repurchasing 4.46 million shares at an average price of $67.19.
The Company expects adjusted earnings per diluted share* for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 to increase 12% to 16% from $1.00 in the prior year to $1.12 to $1.16, which includes $0.08 of SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense in both periods.
For fiscal 2013, the Company expects adjusted earnings per diluted share* to increase 14% to 18% from $4.11 in fiscal 2012 to $4.70 to $4.85, which includes approximately $0.12 to $0.16 of SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense, net of expected benefits. Fiscal 2012 adjusted earnings per diluted share* included $0.34 of SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense.
Fiscal 2013 guidance excludes restructuring charges related to the consolidation of our regional accounting and administrative functions into four Business Support Centers, which are expected to approximate a net charge of $0.02 in the first quarter and $0.06 for the full year. Special gains and charges in fiscal 2012 were a net total charge of $0.11.
The Company will conduct an earnings teleconference at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, May 3. The teleconference will be available by calling (888) 587-0615. The presentation materials (this press release, slides to be presented during the Company's teleconference and information about how to access a live and on-demand webcast of the teleconference) are available in the "Investor Information" section of the Company's website at www.airgas.com. A webcast of the teleconference will be available live and on demand through June 1 at http://investor.shareholder.com/arg/events.cfm. A replay of the teleconference will be available through May 11. To listen, call (888) 203-1112 and enter passcode 9254540.
* See attached reconciliations and calculations of the non-GAAP adjusted earnings per diluted share, adjusted effective tax rate, adjusted operating margin, adjusted cash from operations, free cash flow, and return on capital.
About Airgas, Inc.
Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), through its subsidiaries, is the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hardgoods, such as welding equipment and supplies. Airgas is also a leading U.S. producer of atmospheric gases, carbon dioxide, dry ice, and nitrous oxide, one of the largest U.S. distributors of safety products, and a leading U.S. distributor of refrigerants, ammonia products, and process chemicals. More than 15,000 employees work in approximately 1,100 locations, including branches, retail stores, gas fill plants, specialty gas labs, production facilities and distribution centers. Airgas also markets its products and services through eBusiness, catalog and telesales channels. Its national scale and strong local presence offer a competitive edge to its diversified customer base. For more information, please visit www.airgas.com.
This press release contains statements that are forward looking, as that term is defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 or by the SEC in its rules, regulations and releases. These statements include, but are not limited to: expectations for adjusted earnings per diluted share to be in the range of $1.12 to $1.16 (which includes $0.08 of SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense, compared to $0.08 in the prior year) for the first quarter of fiscal 2013, and in the range of $4.70 to $4.85 (which includes approximately $0.12 to $0.16 of SAP implementation costs and depreciation expense, net of expected benefits); expectations for restructuring charges related to the consolidation of our regional accounting and administrative functions into four Business Support Centers of $0.02 for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 and $0.06 for fiscal year 2013; expectations regarding SAP implementation risk, and the timing and magnitude of SAP implementation costs to be incurred and benefits to be achieved; and expectations for the continuation of current business trends, the Company's future prospects, the value of the Company's organic growth initiatives, and the continuing improvement of the Company's acquisition pipeline. Forward-looking statements also include any statement that is not based on historical fact, including statements containing the words "believes," "may," "plans," "will," "could," "should," "estimates," "continues," "anticipates," "intends," "expects," and similar expressions. We intend that such forward-looking statements be subject to the safe harbors created thereby. All forward-looking statements are based on current expectations regarding important risk factors and should not be regarded as a representation by us or any other person that the results expressed therein will be achieved. Airgas assumes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason, except as required by law. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement include: adverse changes in customer buying patterns resulting from deterioration in current economic conditions; weakening in the operating and financial performance of our customers, which could negatively impact our sales and our ability to collect our accounts receivable; postponement of projects due to economic developments; customer acceptance of price increases; our ability to achieve anticipated acquisition synergies; supply cost pressures; increased industry competition; our ability to successfully identify, consummate, and integrate acquisitions; our continued ability to access credit markets on satisfactory terms; significant fluctuations in interest rates; increases in energy costs and other operating expenses eroding planned cost savings; higher than expected implementation costs of the SAP system; conversion problems related to the SAP system that disrupt our business and negatively impact customer relationships; higher than expected costs related to restructuring and Business Support Center transition; the impact of tightened credit markets on our customers; the impact of changes in tax and fiscal policies and laws; the potential for increased expenditures relating to compliance with environmental regulatory initiatives; the impact of new environmental, healthcare, tax, accounting, and other regulation; the economic recovery in the U.S.; the effect of catastrophic events; political and economic uncertainties associated with current world events; and other factors described in the Company's reports, including its March 31, 2011 Form 10-K, subsequent Forms 10-Q, and other forms filed by the Company with the SEC.
Consolidated statements of earnings, condensed consolidated balance sheets, consolidated statements of cash flows, and reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures follow below.
Barry Strzelec (610) 902-6256
Doug Sherman (610) 902-6270