Praxair makes lighter than air and heavier than air gases available for practical applications. The largest North American industrial gas supplier, it produces and sells atmospheric gases (oxygen, nitrogen, argon, and rare gases), as well as process and specialty gases (CO 2, helium, and hydrogen), for the chemicals, food and beverage, semiconductor, and healthcare industries worldwide. Its Praxair Surface Technologies unit supplies high-temperature and corrosion-resistant metallic, ceramic, and powder coatings, mainly to the aircraft, plastics, and primary metals markets. Depending on a customer's needs, Praxair can build an on-site gas plant or provide gases by the cylinder.
More than half of the company's business is done outside the US. New plant construction and expansion of existing facilities fuels much of the company's international growth, especially in Asia. Praxair continues to invest in growth geographically and has extended its presence in Russia and the Middle East.
Praxair participates in the three main sectors of the industrial gas industry: on-site, merchant, and packaged gas supply. The company builds industrial gas plants at a customer's site (locking in long-term supply agreements), ships merchant gases (delivered liquids) by trucks, and sells packaged gases in canisters or large tanks. Praxair organizes its business segments primarily by region: North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. It also includes its Surface Technologies unit, which supplies high-performance coatings, as one of its main operating segments. Through a network of hundreds of production plants and distribution centers, Praxair manufactures and distributes its products.
Praxair delivered a solid performance in 2011, with sales up 11% over the previous year. Higher pricing and strong volume growth in North America, South America, and Asia helped push revenues to $11.3 billion that year. Increased demand from energy, metals, manufacturing, and chemical end markets also contributed to the higher volume in sales that year. Net income of $1.7 billion in 2011 grew 40% over that of 2010, associated with an acquisition and a charge related to severance and restructuring in Europe in response to the economic downturn.
Its latest strategy focuses on energy markets, emerging economies, and environmental applications to drive growth.
In 2011 the company spent $294 million on acquisitions, primarily for industrial and specialty packaged gas distributors in the US. It also invested in a joint venture in the Middle East and gained a larger ownership stake in its Scandinavian joint venture (Yara Praxair).
The company expanded its presence in China by forming a joint venture in 2011 with Chongqing Chemical and Pharmaceutical Holding Group. The venture will supply oxygen, nitrogen, and clean dry air to a major integrated chemical production complex in Chongqing, the industrial capital of western China. As part of the 60-40 joint venture, Praxair will build and operate two air separation units with total capacity of 5,000 tons per day of gaseous oxygen. Start-up is scheduled for the first half of 2014.
In 2012 the company's Shanghai-based Praxair China unit started up a new air separation plant in Nanjing for Meishan Iron and Steel Co., a subsidiary of gian steel manufacturer Baosteel Group.
In 2011 Praxair sold its US homecare business to Apria Healthcare. The former Praxair segment provided home respiratory services, home medical equipment, and nutrition therapies through a network of more than 80 branches across the country. The transaction allows Praxair to focus on expanding its institutional healthcare business worldwide, although it maintains some of its homecare units outside of the US.
Subsidiary Praxair Distribution also expanded in 2011, acquiring Houston-based National Alloy and Equipment, which supplies technical support to makers of high-pressure control packages and drilling risers for oil and energy companies, and American Gas Group, one of the largest independent specialty gas producers in North America.
Building on its presence in Russia, Praxair agreed to acquire the industrial and packaged gases operations of Russian tire company SIBUR - Russian Tyres in 2012. With four major projects in Russia having a total production capacity of more than 3,500 tons of gases per day under its belt, the company hopes to become the leading industrial gas manufacturer throughout southern Russia.
In 2012 the company's Canadian subsidiary, Praxair Canada, acquired five Airgas branch locations in Western Canada for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition bolsters the company's growth strategy in Western Canada and helps to support its existing Canadian customers and home oxygen clients. That year it also acquired Canadian Cylinder & Gases Inc, an independent distributor of industrial and specialty gases and welding equipment for an undisclosed amount.
That year Praxair also agreed to develop and market a new process technology with Midrex Technologies ( a subsidiary of Kobe Steel) to produce direct reduced iron (DRI) using a variety of fuels, including coke oven gas. The company hopes to find new markets for the production of DRI, which is usually made from a gas produced from natural gas or coal.
Founded in 1907, it adopted the Praxair name after a 1992 spinoff from Union Carbide.