posted a strong first quarter and boosted guidance for 2006.
The Lehigh Valley, Pa., gases and chemicals company made $181 million, or 80 cents a share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from the year-ago $167 million, or 72 cents a share. Revenue rose to $2.1 billion from $1.99 billion a year earlier. Wall Street analysts were looking for a 78-cent profit on sales of $2.08 billion.
The company said it expects to make 84 to 87 cents for the second quarter, above the 84-cent Thomson First Call estimate, and $3.30 to $3.48 for the year, in line with the $3.39 Thomson view.
"We had a strong first quarter with continued growth in sales, earnings and most importantly, return on capital," said CEO John Jones. "We delivered these results despite significant challenges from the hurricanes and large spikes in raw material and energy costs. Our people executed well against the objectives we set for the quarter. A major driver in these results is our continued success in delivering productivity to the bottom line. We also saw continued volume growth in our Gases business and high activity in our Equipment business, driven by liquefied natural gas (LNG) heat exchangers."