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Second quarter sales increased 2% to $460 million, while total same-store sales were essentially flat compared to the same quarter a year ago, reflecting continued weakness in manufacturing and other industrial segments. Same-store sales in the Distribution segment were down 1%, driven by a 2% decline in hardgoods. Same-store sales for the Gas Operations segment increased 4%, attributed to sales from the Hopewell, Virginia CO2 plant, which began operations in January 2003.
"I am pleased with our operational and financial performance in the second quarter," said Airgas Chairman and CEO Peter McCausland. "Airgas associates are managing well in a tough environment. We will continue to manage our costs conservatively until it becomes clearer that the industrial economy is on the mend."
Free Cash Flow for the six months ended Sept. 30 was $33 million compared to $29 million in the prior year, driving a $22 million reduction in adjusted debt.
McCausland continued, "Daily sales rates improved sequentially throughout the quarter, with September posting the highest level we've seen since December. October trends are running slightly behind September. We are cautiously optimistic, although it is important to remember that the industrial economy still has a long road to recovery. We have adjusted the range for our full year earnings per share guidance to $1.03 to $1.10, specifically reflecting the insurance related losses of $0.02 per share in the second quarter."