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We'll take questions after concluding our prepared remarks as time permits. Given our full agenda, we ask that you keep your questions focused on earnings results and business fundamentals. And now I'll turn the call over to Peter to begin our review.Peter McCausland Thanks, Jay. Good morning, and thank you all for joining us. Our strong third quarter results serve to reinforce the message we have expressed for some time now, that Airgas shareholders are just beginning to reap significant benefits as the economy recovers from a recession. We have proven year after year our ability to create real shareholder value, and we think this quarter is another indication of a very bright future. Before reviewing our earnings results, I'd like to briefly address the Air Products unsolicited offer. On December 9, Air Products announced a revised tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Airgas at $70 per share, which it characterized as its best and final offer. On December 13, we announced that the nine independent directors of the Airgas board had unanimously selected Crédit Suisse as the third independent financial adviser to the Airgas board. In evaluating the offer with its independent financial and legal advisers, the board considered the factors later described in our amended scheduled 14D-9, including improvements in the company's business, in the market performance of our business sector and in the operating and economic environment. On December 22, we announced that our board had unanimously rejected the Air Products' offer as clearly inadequate and affirmed the view that the value of Airgas and its sale at this time is at least $78 per share. Each of the three independent financial advisers provided the board with an opinion that the price offered by Air Products was inadequate. To sum it up, that's 10 out of 10 directors and three out of three investment banks. There have been many important developments since the date of the initial Air Products public offer, including improvements in the U.S. economy, improved performance by our company and other companies in our industry and expansion in the market multiples of other companies in our industry. As we have described in our prior filings, these factors all support our view that the Air Products' offer represents a small premium to what we believe would be our undisturbed trading range, certainly not enough to earn control of the largest packaged gas company in the world, with growth opportunities and a track record of performance like ours. We strongly recommend that Airgas stockholders not tender their shares into the Air Products' revised offer.
Since Air Products commenced its tender offer, we have delivered excellent results and economic conditions have continued to improve. We have reduced our adjusted debt by $255 million since Air Products approached us with a $62 offer in December 2009, and we have delivered a tremendous increase in earnings. We are now in the early stages of economic recovery, with significant potential for sales growth in front of us. Our strategy through the downturn was to position Airgas to emerge from the recession as an even stronger company and our results demonstrate our success. Next week, the Delaware Chancery Court will hold a hearing related to the validity of Airgas' shareholders rights plan, an important element of our corporate governance structure that protects stockholders from an inadequate offer to acquire the company. We expect a ruling from the court on this matter at the end of this month or early next month.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com