Airgas: One Company with Strong Potential for Stock Market Investors

Airgas for Reasonable, Consistent GrowthIncome-seeking investors, who are typically more likely to be risk-averse, are now having difficulty finding value in a stock market that’s gone up tremendously.

The huge reduction in the spot price of oil has certainly offered up more value than when the price was steadily around $100.00 a barrel.

Although not cheap by any means, I like Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI), which is in the process of acquiring its limited partnerships. With a current dividend yield of approximately 4.5% and near-term synergy potential, the position has strong potential for a major increase in its dividends this decade.

Another company that we looked at before and is worth highlighting in these pages is Airgas, Inc. (ARG). I believe this position to be worthy of consideration on major price retrenchments for risk-averse equity investors.

It’s a solid business for those looking for income, capital preservation, and some growth potential. The company’s share price has done very well on the stock market over the last decade, but there’s a reason for this—Airgas is a good business.

The company is based in Radnor, PA and specializes in producing and distributing industrial, medical, and specialty gases used by a variety of customers.

The company sells atmospheric gases, like nitrogen and oxygen; welding and fuel gases, like propane, acetylene, and nitrous oxide; and all kinds of other items, like dry ice, liquid nitrogen, argon, and specialized storage containers required to move and hold the products.

Every so often I see an Airgas truck, and I think to myself, “this is a solid, steady business offering consistency for investors.”

A lot of industries require a number of different gases in order to operate. There is widespread use of industrial gases in the construction, medical, energy, chemical, aerospace, and metal fabrication industries. So the demand is there for Airgas’ products.

And because the production, delivery, and storage of gases is specialized and regulated, barriers to entry are higher than in a lot of other businesses.

Airgas is not the fastest-growing company in the marketplace, but it’s consistent and well managed, and its outlook for increasing dividends over the next several years is excellent. (See “The Boring Stock That Pays, Pays, and Pays.”)

In its most recent quarter, the company reported a six-percent gain in comparable revenues to $1.36 billion, of which four percent was organic comparable growth and two percent was due to acquisitions.

According to the company, energy, transportation, hospitals, and rental welding and generator equipment customers provided the organic growth during the quarter.

Earnings per diluted share were $1.30, compared to $1.27 (including a $0.02-per-share tax gain) a year ago. Looking ahead, the company estimates that its fiscal third quarter (ending December 31, 2014) will produce comparable earnings-per-share growth of between nine and 14%.

This fiscal year (ending March 31, 2015) is currently expected to produce diluted earnings-per-share growth of between seven and nine percent comparatively, with organic sales growth approximately four to five percent above the previous fiscal year.

As mentioned, this is not the fastest-growing company in the economy, but it’s consistent, and offers a good track record of financial and stock market growth, with increasing dividends likely over the next several years.