By Sarah Morland and Veronica Snoj
(Reuters) -Linde, the world's largest industrial gases company, raised its profit outlook for 2021 on Thursday as a strong performance in the healthcare business helped beat forecasts for the first quarter.
The U.S.-German company, which supplies factories and hospitals with gases like oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, now expects adjusted earnings per share to grow 17% to 19% year over year – compared to its previous forecast for growth of 11% to 13% %.
Higher prices and growing demand in the healthcare sector – where Linde (NYSE 🙂 supplies equipment and medical gases, including oxygen, for COVID-19 patients – helped Europe, the Middle East and Africa sales rose 10% in the first quarter. rose.
The pandemic has increased the demand for medical oxygen, particularly in India, where dozens of hospitals have become scarce in the past few weeks due to severe bottlenecks and logistical issues.
Sanjiv Lamba, chief operating officer, said teams in India are now producing more than 3,000 tons of medical oxygen a day, almost ten times what it was four weeks ago.
"We have used around 1,200 drivers on the road and serviced around 1,000 hospitals across the country," he added.
Linde, India's largest oxygen producer, and other suppliers are increasing their production to more than 9,000 tons per day by mid-May, an executive told Reuters last week.
Lamba noted similar challenges in Mexico, Brazil, and other Latin American countries – where infections continue to spread and fill intensive care units even as restrictions ease.
Linde's total earnings per share rose by 32% to USD 2.49 from January to March, exceeding the analysts' average estimate of USD 2.26 and our own forecasts.
Linde's biggest competitor, Air Liquide (OTC :), also beat analysts' forecasts last month, driven by strong demand for medical oxygen and an industrial boom in China.
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