) attained a new 52-week high of $112.71, on Jan 17 eventually
closing at $112.15. This was an all-time high for the Radnor,
Pa.-based industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hardgoods
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Airgas has a market cap of $8.3 billion and long-term expected
earnings growth of 12%. The stock has delivered a one-year return
of about 22.3%. Average volume of shares traded over the last
three months stood at approximately 354K. Over the past 52 weeks
Airgas has ranged from a 52-week low of $88.60 on Jan 24, 2013 to
the 52 week high of $112.71 on Jan 17.
Shares of Airgas started escalating following the strong fiscal
second-quarter results on Oct 23. Airgas' earnings increased 19%
year over year to $1.25 a share in the quarter. Revenues in the
reported quarter grew 4% year over year to $1.28 billion.
Acquisitions aided sales growth by 2%, with organic sales up 2%
and a 4% increase in gas and rent, but were partially offset by a
2% decline in hardgoods.
Airgas expects adjusted earnings per share for the third quarter
of fiscal 2014 to increase 11%-15% year over year to $1.15-$1.20.
For fiscal 2014, Airgas expects earnings in the range of
$4.85-$5.00, reflecting 11%-15% annual growth.
Airgas is expected to benefit from its strong acquisition
pipeline. The company has a target of acquisitions worth total
sales of $150 million in fiscal 2014. Furthermore, Airgas' SAP
implementation will help deliver over $75 million in annual
run-rate operating income benefits.
Non-residential (energy & infrastructure) construction sector
accounts for 14% of Airgas' sales. The company is seeing signs of
a probable improvement in non-residential construction activity
next year. Order flow has started for a couple of large projects
and a number of rumored large projects have now moved into
planning and permitting stages. Airgas will benefit if it can win
Share price received a boost after Airgas announced one Dec 20
that its operating units will increase the prices on helium by
20%. This increase is for countering the rising costs of
obtaining and distributing the gas.
Other Stocks to Consider
Currently, Airgas carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some
better-ranked stocks in the same industry are
L'Air Liquide SA
Johnson Matthey plc
Compass Minerals International Inc.
). While L'Air Liquide SA and Johnson Matthey boast a Zacks Rank
#1 (Strong Buy), Compass Minerals holds a Zacks Rank #2