This is a part of the 2014 Distribution Trends Report. The annual report was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of wholesaler-distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this report.
2014 Distribution Trends Report
The discussion around helium marches on. There seems to be some lessening in the helium shortage, as Air Products and Matheson Tri-Gas opened a new jointly-owned production plant near Big Piney, WY. The plant is the first of two planned for the two companies. Respondents to the First-Quarter MDM Baird Distribution Survey notes they were “pretty much off allocation,” though for some in select markets, helium remains a “headache.”
Nationals continue to be aggressive about expansion, even if efforts are rebuffed. In Airgas’ fiscal first quarter, which ended June 30, 2013, it only managed to complete one small acquisition. CFO Robert McLaughlin noted in an investor call that independent distributors had some “reluctance” about selling. By the end of the fiscal year, Airgas failed to meet its goal of $150 million in acquired sales. Praxair appeared to have a bit more luck, though much of its expansion was focused on international markets.
Distributors say that they’re still hearing from the large players looking to consolidate the market even further.
Specialty gases continues to be an opportunity. According to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets, specialty gases consumption in North America is forecast to grow 6.3 percent between 2013 and 2018. This information, on the heels of a “sluggish” 2013, is a bright spot for a market that remains highly fragmented.
Price increases continue across the board.