Praxair Management Discusses Q4 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Jan.23.13 | About: Praxair, Inc. (PX)

Praxair (NYSE:PX)

Q4 2012 Earnings Call

January 23, 2013 11:00 am ET

Executives

Kelcey E. Hoyt - Director of Investor Relations

James S. Sawyer - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

Robert Walker - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

P.J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Duffy Fischer - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Michael J. Sison - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Edward H. Yang - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Donald Carson - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Vincent Andrews - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

David J. Manthey - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Robert Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Q4 2012 Praxair Earnings Conference Call. My name is Miranda, and I will be your operator for today. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Ms. Kelcey Hoyt, Director of Investor Relations. You may proceed now.

Kelcey E. Hoyt

Thanks, Miranda. Good morning, and thank you for attending our fourth quarter earnings call and webcast. I'm joined this morning by Jim Sawyer, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Liz Hirsch, our Vice President and Controller.

Today's presentation materials are available on our website at praxair.com in the Investors section. Please read the forward-looking statement disclosure on Page 2 of the slides and note that it applies to all statements made during this teleconference. Please also note that our discussion of earnings for the full year and fourth quarter, including year-over-year and sequential comparisons, excludes previously disclosed adjustments in the third quarter of 2012 and fourth quarter of 2011. These items are detailed and reconciled to the GAAP reported numbers in the appendices to this presentation and the press release. Jim and I will now review Praxair's full year and fourth quarter results as well as our outlook for 2013, including earnings guidance. We'll then be available to answer questions.

James S. Sawyer

Thank you, Kelcey, and good morning, everyone.

Praxair delivered solid results for the full year 2012. Strong growth in our North American businesses was offset by significant currency headwinds and recessionary economic conditions in Europe and Brazil, resulting in relatively stable sales but continuing earnings per share growth.

Excluding foreign currency and cost pass-through, full year sales grew 5%, operating profit 6% and EPS 8%. This demonstrates that we continue to get leverage down the income statement by growing operating profits faster than sales through strong productivity, gains and price. EPS grew more than operating profit because of our strong return on capital and operating cash flow, which provides for share repurchases. This is the hallmark of our leadership and commitment to solid execution, effective management of what we have under our control, particularly during times of challenging economic conditions.

Our results for the fourth quarter were mixed as we had warned and -- at the beginning of the quarter. I hate to refer to the fiscal cliff, but budget anxiety and deferral of capital spending resulting from poor business confidence was strongly evident in Europe, South America and the U.S. Demand for packaged gases, primarily from the metal fabrication and machinery industries, slowed markedly in December as customers took extended holiday shutdowns in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Europe and particularly South America. These shutdowns have extended into January, and in Brazil and Asia will probably last into February due to the Carnival and Lunar New Year holidays. Consequently, we've issued rather uninspiring earnings guidance for the first quarter. By March, we expect packaged gases to resume the strong growth we've seen over the past several years.

On the bright side, our on-site and merchant customers maintained solid demand through the year end as production from efficient steel mills, chemical plants and refinery runs continued strong. Moreover, we're clearly seeing a strong rebound in China now that the new Communist Party has taken hold and some delays in decision making that we have seen in 2012 have ended. This augurs well for exporters to China, specifically American and German machinery as well as commodities from North and South America.

While we tend to be conservative and believe things only when we see them, I'm optimistic that the remainder of 2013, we'll get back on track.

Kelcey E. Hoyt

Thanks, Jim.

Please turn to Slide 3 for an overview of the 2012 full year results. As Jim commented earlier, Praxair delivered solid results in 2012. Overall, sales were comparable with the prior year, and full year organic growth of 4% and acquisition growth of 1% was offset by the impact of currency translation and natural gas pass-through. Our North America and Asia segments delivered strong volume growth during the year, which was largely offset by lower volumes in Europe and South America. By end market, energy, manufacturing and metals showed the strongest growth from the prior year.

Operating profit of $2.5 billion was 6% above 2011, excluding foreign currency. Operating margin improved 40 basis points to a record 22.3%.

During 2012, for the fourth year in a row, we achieved more than 6% savings in our cost stack through productivity. This amount was higher than our ongoing targeted 5% per year as the Praxair businesses accelerated initiatives during the year in production, procurement and distribution. Approximately 25% of our savings came from sustainable productivity initiatives, with the largest being energy efficiency improvement in our plant.

Our after-tax return on capital for the year was 13.9% and was suppressed by the large amount of projects we have under construction and, therefore, on our balance sheet but which have not yet started up and are not yet earning revenues.

Return on equity increased to 28.9%.

Please turn to Slide 4. We generated record operating cash flow of $2.8 billion for the year, which was equal to 25% of sales.

Capital spending for the year was $2.2 billion, about 20% above 2011. 2012's capital spend at about 20% of sales was a larger-than-typical amount as this increase was driven by our strong backlog and the number of projects that we expect to start up in 2013. In a typical year, we spend about 15% of sales on capital projects.

In 2012, we invested $280 million in acquisitions, primarily for 17 packaged gas distributors in North America and in the industrial gas business in Russia.

During 2012, we also purchased $459 million of stock, net of issuances. $1 billion remains available under the share repurchase program that was authorized in 2012. We paid dividends of $655 million, and this morning announced a 9% increase in our quarterly dividend for 2013, our 20th consecutive annual increase.

Our debt-to-capital ratio was 51.9%, and debt-to-EBITDA was 1.9x, reflecting our solid investment-grade credit rating.

During the course of 2012, we took advantage of low long-term interest rates as well as our tight issuance spreads to Treasury and issued 5-, 10- and 30-year bonds at record low yields. About 85% of our debt is now termed out with long-term securities.

Please turn to Slide 5 for our fourth quarter results. Fourth quarter sales were $2.8 billion, comparable to 2011. Strong growth in Asia and modest year-over-year growth in North America was offset by lower sales in South America and Europe. Sequentially, overall sales were modestly above the third quarter. Sequential sales growth in North America, Europe and Asia was mitigated by lower sales in South America as many customers lowered production over the holiday.

Operating profit was $616 million as compared to $619 million in the prior year quarter. Operating margin remained strong at 22%.

Net income was $414 million, in line with the prior year, and earnings per share was $1.38 versus $1.36 in the prior year quarter.

Fourth quarter operating cash flow was a record $879 million and funded $586 million of capital expenditures, acquisitions of $171 million and dividends and share repurchases.

Please turn to Page 6 for our results in North America. Sales in North America were $1.4 billion, 2% above the prior year quarter. Organic sales growth was steady as increased price of 2% was offset by similar volume declines. Acquisitions of packaged gas distributors, primarily in the United States, contributed 1% sales growth.

On-site sales were strong and grew year-over-year and sequentially, with the strongest growth to energy, metals and chemicals. Energy was driven by our on-site supply systems to refineries, the majority of which are in the Gulf Coast region of the United States.

Pipeline oxygen sales to steel mills were strong as our steel customers are now very cost competitive globally. The fundamentals for our North American chemical customers are strong as their production remains advantaged with plentiful low-cost natural gas as a feedstock.

Packaged gas sales were impacted at the end of the quarter by falling business confidence among our customers with metal fabrication and machine job shops.

North American operating profit was $367 million, 4% above the prior year quarter. The operating margin was a very strong 25.9%, reflecting pricing and productivity gains.

In 2013, we are on track to start the 2 large hydrogen projects under construction for Valero at St. Charles and Port Arthur and the hydrogen supply to serve Motiva in Louisiana. In addition, we have 1/2 dozen air separation plants due to start up in North America in 2013 and 2014.

Proposal activity for new on-site plants in North America remained strong, particularly to the cost-advantaged chemical industry using natural gas as a feedstock. The list of potential chemical projects in the United States and, therefore, related opportunities for sale of gas continues to grow.

Now please turn to Page 7 for our results in Europe. Sales in Europe were 5% below the prior year quarter due primarily to the weaker euro. Packaged gas volumes continued to decline due to weakness in the metal fabrication and manufacturing markets. During the quarter, we also saw German volumes decline modestly as machinery production fell.

Operating profit of $60 million was 6% below the prior year, driven primarily by negative currency translation effects.

During the fourth quarter, we started up our first air separation plant in Russia. This plant will produce oxygen, nitrogen and compressed air for Kaustik, a division of Nikochem, under a long-term contract in Volgograd, an industrial region in southern Russia. The highly efficient plant with capacity of 350 tons per day replace older captive units and will reduce Kaustik's electricity consumption at the site by approximately 30%. The plant will also supply merchant products to local markets such as metals, metal fabrication, glass, automotive, food, electronics and health care.

Page 8 shows our results in South America. South American segment sales were $484 million; 9% below the prior year quarter due to negative currency impacts, primarily the weakening of the Brazilian reais against the U.S. dollar. Sequentially, lower volumes across on-site, merchant and packaged reduced sales by 7%.

During the fourth quarter, customers in Brazil extended holiday shutdown periods, accelerated maintenance and reduced inventories. This impacted most end markets with the largest decreases in manufacturing and metals customers, which represents about 55% of our sales.

About 20% of Praxair's sales in South America come from the countries outside of Brazil. Underlying sales in these countries grew 11% versus the prior year quarter and 2% sequentially with growth in chemicals, food and beverage, health care and manufacturing.

Operating profit in South America was $92 million versus $118 million in the prior year quarter.

We remain very positive on Brazil in the medium to long term, given the strong growth fundamentals in place and our 100 years of operating experience and strong position.

We continue to see strong new project proposal activity. Proposal activity is broad based across South America in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Argentina and Chile, primarily in energy, manufacturing and metals.

Please turn to Slide 9 for our results in Asia. Sales of $374 million grew 12% versus the prior year quarter. Volume growth of 12% came primarily from higher on-site sales in China, India and Korea, including new plant start-ups for metals and chemicals customers. We continue to see lower demand from the electronics end market, including semiconductor, flat panel display and solar customers.

Asia's operating profit of $69 million increased 15% from the prior year quarter. Operating profit improved from higher volumes as well as productivity gains.

Our backlog of projects in Asia continues to be replenished by new signings as projects start up and currently includes 20 projects in China, India, Korea and the Middle East that will start up between the first quarter of this year and into 2015.

During the quarter, we started our third production plant to supply Usha Martin Limited, India's leading wire and wire rope manufacturer. The plant will supply gaseous oxygen and nitrogen to support Usha Martin's expansion.

We announced the signings of 2 projects that have been added to the backlog during the quarter, one in India and one in China. In India, we are expanding our supply of gaseous oxygens, nitrogen and argon to JSW's steel mill in southern India. Praxair's air separation unit has a production capacity of 1,800 tons per day and will add to the existing Praxair; supply of 6,800 tons per day currently. The plant will also supply merchant liquid to support growing demand in the region in the steel, cement, chemical, textile, pharmaceutical and automotive markets.

In China, we signed a long-term supply contract to expand supply to our existing customer, Jinlong Copper, in eastern China with an estimated start-up of mid-2014. We will invest to double the capacity of our air separation plant in Tongling to 700 tons per day. In addition, we will acquire Jinlong's existing captive plant. Jinlong has also been utilizing Praxair's oxy-fuel burner applications technology to further improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

New project activity for the region remains strong. We have not seen any weakening in the negotiation and bidding process for new project activity. In fact, in a couple of instances, given the government changeover, a couple of bids have accelerated with the customer indicating they plan to make a decision quickly. The growth continues to be driven by longer-term secular growth needs and includes energy, chemical, metals and manufacturing.

Our results for Surface Technologies are shown on Page 10. Surface Technologies's sales for the quarter were $162 million, up 3% compared to the prior year excluding currency. The underlying sales growth came primarily from higher price as increased energy and aerospace coatings were offset by weaker industrial coatings, primarily in Europe.

Operating costs was $28 million for the quarter, and the increase reflects price and productivity gains.

Now please turn to Page 11 for our earnings guidance. Our earnings guidance for the first quarter is for EPS of $1.35 to $1.40. Typically, our first quarter is the softest of the calendar year due to seasonal slowdowns due to holidays in South America and Asia and slow winter sales in the U.S. construction market.

Our guidance for the full year of 2013 is for sales to be in the area of $12 billion, roughly 7% above 2012.

Our initial forecast for full year earnings per share is a range of $5.85 to $6.10, which represents an increase of 5% to 10% above our 2012 earnings. This guidance assumes a currency headwind of about $0.04 a share at current rates from foreign currency translation, the majority of which would occur in the first quarter.

Pension has a headwind of about $0.05 per share for the year, given the lower discount rates in effect on the revaluation as well as loss amortization. Interest expense will increase due to higher debt levels that are now substantially termed out. This is estimated to be a headwind of about $0.05 per share.

We expect capital spending to be in the range of $1.8 billion to $2 billion. About 20% of this spend is maintenance capital for our base business. We spend another 5% for cost reduction projects such as improving the energy efficiency of our plants by upgrading compression equipment or turbomachinery. We will typically look for a 3-year payback on these projects. The remaining 75% of our capital spend, or approximately $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion, is for new production plants under contracts with customers, which will deliver sales and earnings growth for the foreseeable future.

With that, I would like to turn this call over to Q&A. [Operator Instructions]

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Laurence Alexander, Jefferies.

Robert Walker - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

This is Rob Walker in for Laurence. I guess, Jim, can you go into a bit more detail on the rebound you're seeing in activity in China?

James S. Sawyer

Right. I think there you can see that in several areas. But the most important one in my mind is really the pace of decision making and the pace of moving forward on projects. And we saw generally during the second and third quarters of 2012 kind of a lot of pause in decision making as people were waiting for the party members to get chosen and so forth. That, in turn, slowed down capital spending, and now we've seen that improve. So we're seeing much quicker decision making in terms of new project proposals, and we're also seeing additional strengthening demand in merchant gases and on-site gases, particularly December and the first couple weeks of January.

Robert Walker - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

And then can you update us on where merchant utilization rates are by region and kind of how those -- whether they were up or not sequentially?

James S. Sawyer

We don't really go through them all by region, but I would tell you that utilization rates, generally speaking, are sequentially off. In Europe, they were lower. In the U.S., they're lower. And in Asia, I would say they're up slightly. But generally, they're not as strong as we would like them to be.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Mark R. Gulley , Equity Research BGC Financial L.P.

Mark R. Gulley , Equity Research BGC Financial L.P.

If I take a look at the backlog, guys, about $1 billion of the $2.6 billion is in Asia. Does it concern you, Jim, that, that backlog is a little unbalanced in terms of a risk assessment?

James S. Sawyer

Well, it's a big number. The -- and I would be concerned if it was all in one country, but it's pretty evenly split between Korea, India and China. There's also some projects in the Middle East and Thailand there. But we've got a large backlog in Korea, mostly related to 3 projects that we're building for Samsung right now in their core Korean operations, which, incidentally, have continued to operate very well because Samsung, there's a mix of their own in-house manufacturing as well as outsourced manufacturing. When their volumes go down, they fully outsource manufacturing back in-house, and that's actually improved our business as far as -- our electronics business held up quite well during the quarter. India, we've got a couple of steel projects, refinery projects and then a bunch of kind of variety of manufacturing and mining metals and so forth. So it's pretty well balanced there. Then in China, we've got a couple large gasification projects underway. We don't have anything new in steel underway. And so it's pretty well balanced. But it's a large amount of backlog for Asia. But that's absolutely where the growth is.

Mark R. Gulley , Equity Research BGC Financial L.P.

Right. And then secondly, one of your competitors talked about a refinery hydrogen outage that they benefited from in the quarter. Was it you or another competitor that had some operating problems on the U.S. Gulf Coast?

James S. Sawyer

It certainly wasn't us. It might have been an in-house or refinery. I'm not sure what they're talking about.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of P.J. Juvekar from Citigroup.

P.J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

So your CapEx is up over 50% in the last 2 years. And if you look at it, I mean, you really don't have any free cash flow because of this high CapEx and your dividend payments. So when do shareholders begin to see free cash flow? Do we need to see loadings go up before we see that?

James S. Sawyer

That's a good question. But we are -- we really ended 2012 in a steep level of capital spending, almost 20% of sales. And that's because we had a lot of backlog that we -- pretty nearly finished construction in 2012 and will start up in 2013. CapEx in 2013 will be probably a range of $1.8 billion to $2 billion, more back down to the more like 15% of sales kind of number. And I expect that it will stay at those levels going forward. Now one of the problems we have is that we're just not performing very well this quarter. We're not operating on all cylinders. Our operating profit contribution in South America was $25 million lower than the prior year. It's about $100 million annualized. About 5% of our earnings per share disappeared with that. So we've got to get business in South America and Europe performing better. We've got to get these refinery projects, well, they'll be starting up for Valero and Motiva in the second quarter. And then the $1 billion of projects that Mark and I were talking about in Asia will be starting up in 2012 as well -- or 2013, I should say. But we clearly should be on track to be generating positive operating cash flow or stronger positive operating cash flow. But we will continue to increase the dividends and buy back stock because we also have an opportunity now, with very, very low interest rates, to take out a little bit more leverage and give our shareholders some of the benefit of our low borrowing cost.

P.J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

And just quickly, I think you're guiding to EPS growth of 5% to 10% this year. Your project backlog, you say, will contribute 4% to 6% of that, and plus you're buying back stock. It feels like you're not much -- giving much credit to your base business. Are you being conservative on that growth target?

James S. Sawyer

Yes. I mean, if you look at our EPS guidance, the bottom of the range essentially assumes no new contribution out of the base business. So in other words, a completely flat base business in 2013. The pickup from $5.57 to $5.85, that $0.30 or so, is all coming from new projects, partially offset by about $0.10 of -- or maybe $0.05 of headwind from pension, another $0.05 from higher interest expense, another $0.05 from currency. So the bottom of the range is no growth in the base business, no improvement in the economy. And then I think the top end of the range shows -- look, I'm hoping to see beginning of March, which is a pickup in packaged gas demand in the U.S. and a pickup in some of the oil well services activity, pickup in South America and a pickup in Europe. So hopefully, we'll get up there.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Duffy Fischer of Barclays.

Duffy Fischer - Barclays Capital, Research Division

So the bullishness on Latin America, well founded medium and long term. Can you kind of talk about how long is the short term and what we should expect macro-wise for your business there over the next 2 to 3 to 4 quarters?

James S. Sawyer

I wish I knew. I've been wrong the last couple of quarters, but I think like Brazil has gone through kind of a 1, 2, 3, 4 punch, starting out with their own strong currency and high interest rates. That should have bounced back, but then I think they were hit in the middle of this year by weakening demand from China for raw materials, and then they've been hit in the fourth quarter by power rationing and decreased power availability. Now one of the things that we're expecting to happen in Brazil, well, there are quite a few government stimulus programs under way in terms of lower interest rates and taxes on imported goods. But they also have plans to reduce taxes on electric power. And that's one of the Achilles' heels for the Brazil producers right now, is that electric power in Brazil costs easily probably 2.5x what it cost in the United States. Those tariffs are supposed to come down in February, and I personally believe that one of the reasons that December and January were so weak is that people are waiting to have lower power costs to start up again. So we'll knock on wood and hope that we get into the second quarter and we'll get much better contribution out of Brazil.

Duffy Fischer - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay. And then if we look to the U.S., you guys got a very interesting view of the big chemical build-out that people are talking about, both supplying some product to these big plants and also in that you've done a lot of construction yourselves in the U.S. where others really haven't over the last several years. When you think about kind of the announced build-out that people have talked about going out into 2017, '18 and 19, how probable is it that you think the chemical industry can build out on the schedule that it's projecting itself? And then what's your opportunity around that?

James S. Sawyer

Yes. There are some, roughly 10-or-so projects that I think are -- there's probably 20 projects or so on the drawing board, maybe 10 of which will end up getting built. I'm not going to start giving odds on particular projects right now. But I can tell you that the construction economics, construction scheduling, construction execution on the Gulf Coast is better than anywhere else in the world. We have consistently been able to build our projects on budget, on schedule. I can tell you that if you try to build a large chemical plant in the Gulf Coast as compared to Europe or South America, your capital spending is probably going to be half as much as other parts of the world. And that's because of high skilled labor availability, good labor productivity and so forth. So I think that the Gulf Coast is in good shape for -- these guys will be able to build these projects on budget and on schedule.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Mike Sison, KeyBanc.

Michael J. Sison - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

In terms of Europe, in the beginning, it sounds like it's stabilizing a little bit, maybe steady, I guess, to some degree at weak levels, and the competitors over there were a little bit aggressive at the beginning of the downturn. Has things sort of normalized there, the competitive environment? It looks like pricing was positive or weighed back to a little bit more normal.

James S. Sawyer

Yes. Well, there's a lot of different parts of Europe. But I would say that Southern Europe, obviously, has been hit for multiple years now by the constant fiscal issues. Germany kind of was very strong for a couple years and then finally slowed down in the second half, and I would largely attribute that to less -- lower exports of machinery to China and other countries, which is kind of the same thing that I was talking about before. But what we're expecting in 2013 is definitely some improvement in Southern Europe. And that's mainly because the -- they -- during 2011 and 2012, the government spending has tightened up, and that was an additional fiscal drag on industrial production growth. And then now that's over. They've reached their targets. Spain's reached its targets, Italy reached its targets in terms of austerity. And so spending should be able to pick up a little bit in 2013. And I think that as China starts to pull [ph] a little more equipment and so forth, that Germany could get a lift also.

Michael J. Sison - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Okay, great. And one quick one on PDI. Is the expectation to potentially see that business get back to maybe mid-single digits in terms of growth? And do you still see acquisitions in that area in 2013 as a good way to use -- utilize your cash?

James S. Sawyer

Right. Well, we had kind of an open window in 2012 for acquisitions in the sense that most of these acquisitions, or pretty all of them, are family-owned businesses and, as I've said before, their decision to sell is usually a family decision. Now businesses were strong in 2012, and people were concerned about capital gains taxes going up. And so a lot of people came to us, and especially in the fourth quarter, ready to sell. And so we closed those acquisitions. I would expect that the pace of acquisitions will slow down because that kind of window is over. In terms of the underlying business, I think you've got some government contractors and so forth who are unsure what kind of inventories they should be carrying. So the biggest downturn that we've seen in December and January has been in hard goods and equipment spending, and I think that the U.S. industrial renaissance concept is still alive and well. We've talked about the refinery build-outs, sort of the chemical plant build-outs in the Gulf Coast. That should be -- augur well for welding [ph] and equipment spending, packaged gases and so forth. So I think they'll get back on track as the year progresses.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Edward Yang from Oppenheimer.

Edward H. Yang - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Just following up on Mike's question. Maybe provide some color around the North American volume dip. That was an area that was previously outperforming. And what do you think volumes will be up in North America in 2013?

James S. Sawyer

In packaged gases or generally speaking?

Edward H. Yang - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Generally, including the new plant start-ups, Valero and Motiva.

James S. Sawyer

Oh. With the plant start-ups and so forth, our total volumes will be up probably close to 10%.

Edward H. Yang - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Okay. And the decline in the fourth quarter, how was that spread out between the packaged gases? And you also mentioned merchant and frac-ing as well.

James S. Sawyer

Yes, most of that was in packaged gases. I think what I was trying to convey is that sometimes, we've seen year-end production curtailments with on-site customers. We did not see that in either the steel, the chemical or the refinery industry this year. So it was mostly packaged gas and manufacturing. We've seen some slowdown in natural gas frac-ing, and I'm not sure exactly when -- what to expect there.

Edward H. Yang - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

And finally, do you have any onetime restructuring costs or any onetimers in any of the divisions related to cost containment?

James S. Sawyer

Yes. I mean, if you decide to take a closer look at our income statement, we typically have what we would call other income of $5 million to $10 million a quarter. It was negative this quarter, and we did have to -- we did take advantage of the quarter to take out some write-downs in South America. And we also have a fairly significant severance cost this quarter, as we do most quarters. And then the other thing that was hurting other income was slightly lower partnership income from our -- one of our frac-ing joint ventures. That was a dent in the fourth quarter.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Don Carson, Susquehanna Financial.

Donald Carson - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Jim, I just want to get a little more color on your outlook. So you had 2% growth of -- in volume overall in '12, obviously down from '10 and '11. So what's behind your '13 outlook? Where do you see that volume going? And can you just be a little more specific on how PDI did in the fourth quarter between gases and rent and hard goods?

James S. Sawyer

Right. Well, let me start with PDI. And basically, PDI results for the quarter were relatively flat year-on-year. But the last -- December was down 7% in hard goods, for example. So basically, what we're seeing is volume's up overall in the fourth quarter, but really all in December, and still seeing the price achievement both in gases and rent. But hard goods is where we took a hit. Now the other question was about...

Donald Carson - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

It is about your overall volume expectation of the company. So you're up 2%, which -- in '12, which really slowed down, I guess, from 5% in '11 and 9% in '10. So what's -- is it just kind of muddle along at that level? Or do you see any -- are you baking in any sort of volume -- significant volume recovery beyond what you saw in '12?

James S. Sawyer

Well, what I said about the guidance was that the bottom end of the guidance assumes really no contribution from underlying volumes in terms of industrial production pretty much globally. But the -- we should get roughly 6% from project start-ups across the year. And then we could potentially get back to 8%, 10% if we get some help from the economy.

Donald Carson - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Yes. And then on that 4% to 6% topline contribution from new projects, what does that translate into in terms of earnings per share?

James S. Sawyer

It would be slightly higher than that because the new projects have high operating margins. For the most part, they're on-site projects with high operating margins and will contribute more to operating profit than they do to sales.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Vincent Andrews, Morgan Stanley.

Vincent Andrews - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Sure. Just one last follow-up on sort of what's baked in versus what's been happening in particular to packaged gas. I just want to make sure I understand the -- how much of the sort of December and I guess now January weakness just becomes loss versus how much of it do you think can snap back later in the year? And what's baked into that 5% to 10% EPS growth?

James S. Sawyer

So I think that the time loss is lost, okay? I know there were weak volumes in December and January. I don't think that we'll get a payback for those lines in February if that's the way the question is oriented. So I think that there's just -- I mean, I just don't think we'll see that come back. So that just put a dent in the last month of 2012 and the first month of 2013.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of David Manthey, Robert W. Baird.

David J. Manthey - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Just wondering, given that you've seen good results in terms of pricing in the face of a pretty lackluster demand environment, I'm just wondering, Jim, if you can talk about your outlook for 2013 pricing even if we do get a relatively flattish volume condition.

James S. Sawyer

Right. Well, I mean, we generally, historically, have gotten on average about 2% per year price in merchant and packaged business. Now that's all kind of a long-term average. Not a whole lot different than inflation, but a pretty good number when you compare it to generally what you see in other basic materials sectors where pricing tends to come down over time. So we're pretty positive about the outlook. We have contracts in merchant and packaged which enable us to pass on price increases. And certainly, what we have to do is to be able to get productivity and price increases which more than offset our inflation. And generally speaking, our team is able to do that. We have issues around the world like the smaller argon prices in China, which we were not able to recover, and then the weak economies in Europe and South America. But I think with a little bit of economic stability, we'll be able to get -- reach our goals in pricing.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of David Begleiter, Deutsche Bank.

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Jim, just tying your last answer to the Jan. 1 price increase of, I guess, 15% for Lox/Lin and as much as 30% for helium. I know you don't get nearly all of it, and there is a -- it comes on a bit of a waterfall. But should this imply a little bit more than the annual 2%-type price increase, at least for North America?

James S. Sawyer

Right. Well, the way that pricing works in the merchant business is that most of the customers are on contracts probably an average of 5 years, and there are a variety of types of contracts depending on what the customer is interested in. But in a lot of cases, we've got some customers who are on old contracts that are 4 years old, I would say. They come up for renewal this year and haven't seen a price increase in maybe 5 years. And so the announcement that we've put out is really more focused on customers that are situated like that and is not meant that we would get that kind of a price increase across our system.

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Understood. Just, Jim, one more thing. Just on the 17 North American packaged gas acquisitions, how much sales did you acquire? And what was the average EBITDA multiple you paid?

James S. Sawyer

In terms of prices of acquisitions?

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Yes.

James S. Sawyer

It really depends on the specific property. But we pretty much focused on acquisitions where we've already got existing operations and we can get some good synergies. So I would say generally kind of as a rule of thumb that we will be paying somewhere in the order of 10x EBITDA pre-synergy, and then after we've done the synergies, we'll get, after synergies, something like 6x EBITDA.

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

And how much sales did you acquire in those 17?

James S. Sawyer

Excuse me?

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

How much sales revenues did you acquire?

James S. Sawyer

Revenue, about $120 million.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Robert Koort, Goldman Sachs.

Robert Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Jim, you talked about the incremental earnings from your new projects. And I'm just curious, given a relatively somber outlook for the base business, do most of those projects, those on-sites, have piggybacks that would have a slower ramp to that extra liquid volume? Or is there any reason to expect that the ramps of these new projects would be slower than typical given a weaker economic environment?

James S. Sawyer

There is a fair amount of that. It depends on the projects. Some of the projects are -- especially the refinery hydrogen projects -- are 100% take or pay. Others of the projects have piggyback liquid credits for liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon. And usually, we try to be fairly conservative in our expectations for both the volume ramp-up and the price of new capacity there. I would say that one of the slower parts of 2012 where we didn't get as much contribution as we would have liked to was some of the Chinese projects where we had some liquid argon projects and, as we've talked before, the price of liquid argon came down significantly.

Robert Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

And on another sort of second gas -- second-tier gas is helium. And I guess I've seen different views on whether the helium supply issue is being resolved or not. And then we see some unrest in Algeria, which tends to be a good source or was expected to be a good source of extra helium. Are you guys running into problems in your PDI business with helium availability? And what's pricing doing there?

James S. Sawyer

Right. We have enough helium to go around to all of our customers at this point in time. But now, we don't have any more than that, okay? And so the -- there -- probably one of the issues with helium is there's only a few places in the world where helium is found, and that's usually found in conjunction with certain natural gas wells in the Midwest or -- and also in Russia and, interestingly, in Algeria. We don't source much from Algeria, so we're not really concerned about that issue. I don't think it'd be an issue anyway. But clearly, there are limitations on supply. We as well as others in the industry are trying to find some more sources of supply. We're quite well backward integrated, and so I think we have the most robust and flexible supply system as anybody in the industry, and that's why we're the only one who does not have people who are -- allocations are reduced at this point in time. But I think that supply will be tight through 2013, and the best way to allocate that is to try to keep some pressure on pricing.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Zekauskas, JPM.

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

In your Asian business, sequentially your revenues, I think, were up $16 million, and your operating profits were up $17 million. How did you do that? Or was there something unusual that happened in Asia this quarter?

James S. Sawyer

A couple things. And part of it's seasonal. But we've had 2 significant plant start-ups in Asia in -- started up at the end of the -- in the third quarter. And then we also have typically some power issues in Asia in the third quarter. And so that, overall, is the result that we'll achieve. We also had some makeup interim [ph] take-or-pay payments that came through in the fourth quarter that pertained to earlier in the year.

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

And in answer to a previous questioner who was asking you about other income, you reflected that other income was sort of unusually low for this quarter and that it was roughly $40 million for the year. Is that something you expect for 2013? Is the other income number something like $40 million?

James S. Sawyer

Probably not that high. I mean, it depends on whether you have any asset sales and so forth. But we generally get partnership income through that line and in several other categories of income. And then when we have severance charges and so forth, they come through that line. So you have kind of unusual things. But absent any restructuring charges or major asset sale gains, that's typically around $5 million a quarter.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Kevin McCarthy, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Kelcey E. Hoyt

Kevin?

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

My question relates to refinery hydrogen in North America. Specifically, I'm wondering if your 3- to 5-year view of growth prospects there has changed at all as a function of what's going on with the crude oil slate and the impact that shale oil discoveries have had in the U.S. You hosted a very helpful event in mid-2011 where you outlined some fairly specific goals there, and I'm just wondering if there's been any evolution of the growth view over the last 1.5 years.

James S. Sawyer

I would say that over the past 1.5 years, that as the U.S. has proved that it can be more self-sufficient in oil, what we've seen is that U.S. production of light sweet crude has substantially grown as well as natural gas liquids, which means that the reliance on heavy sour crude that we had forecasted several years ago is probably not going to pan out as much as we would have guessed several years ago. That then in turn means probably fewer new hydrogen projects for U.S. refiners. So we're really -- we've got some underway. The ones that we've got are [indiscernible]. But I'm not expecting that we'll see the same level of refinery investments in order to be able to have a more flexible slate of crude to refine. Now so we're focused more overseas with some projects in India and other locations where refinery capacity needs to be added just to meet growing demand for motor fuels and not many added specifically to refine heavy sour crude.

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Just to follow up, Jim. I think at the time back in 2011, you were looking for about 8 billion standard cubic feet a day of growth. And of that amount, maybe 5 billion was going to be outsourced and fracs there was looking to capture about 1/3 of that or 1.7. Even if the market is slowing, is the amount of outsourcing similar? And is your win rate similar to your prior goals in terms of the projects that you're capturing?

James S. Sawyer

I would say the total market is definitely getting smaller than the outlook we've had there. In terms of the outsourcing, if anything, I would say that the tendency among refiners to want to outsource is growing. We're clearly seeing that in India and a number of other countries where in prior times, they had done it in-house and now they're going to outsource it. So I think that part of the equation is still very solid.

Kelcey E. Hoyt

Okay, thank you. With that, we'll end the call. Thank you for participating in our fourth quarter earnings call. Our first quarter earnings call will be held on April 24. And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you for participation in today's conference. This concludes the presentation. You may now disconnect. Have a great day.

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