U.S. Markets closed

Airgas 4Q net income off 2 percent, hikes dividend

RADNOR, Pa. (AP) -- Airgas Inc., which sells gases and equipment to hospitals and industrial companies, said Thursday that its fiscal fourth-quarter net income slipped 2 percent while revenue edged higher.

Its adjusted earnings narrowly beat Wall Street estimates and the company boosted its dividend by 20 percent. Its shares rose more than 2 percent.

The Radnor, Pa.-based company reported earnings of $86.1 million, or $1.13 per share, for the three month period ending March 31. That is down from $88 million, or $1.12 per share, a year ago. A drop in the number of outstanding shares added 3 cents to the per-share results for the recent quarter.

The company said its adjusted earnings for the latest quarter came to $1.14 per share, That was a penny more than analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected,

Total revenue rose to $1.26 billion from $1.24 billion, matching what analysts expected.

Sales from existing businesses were flat compared to prior year, with gas and rentals up 4 percent and hardgoods such as welding equipment down 5 percent, Airgas said. Acquisitions added 2 percent of sales growth during the quarter.

For the full fiscal year, Airgas said that its net income rose to $340.9 million, or $4.35 per share, from $313.4 million, $4 per share. Its revenue rose 4 percent to $4.4 billion from $4.2 billion.

The company said that its board of directors had increased its quarterly dividend to 48 cents per share from 40 cents per share, payable on June 28 to shareholders of record on June 14.

For the current quarter, Airgas expects earnings between $1.14 per share to $1.20 per share. Analysts expected earnings of $1.29 per share. For the year, it expects earnings of $5 to $5.35 per share. Analysts expect $5.33 per share.

Its shares rose $2.15, or 2.3 percent, to $96.06 in late trading Thursday.