Linde plc today reported fourth-quarter 2022 income from continuing operations of $1,328 million and diluted earnings per share of $2.67, up 30% and 35% respectively. Excluding Linde AG purchase accounting impacts and other charges, adjusted income from continuing operations was $1,574 million, up 10% versus prior year. Adjusted earnings per share was $3.16, 14% above prior year.
Linde’s sales for the fourth quarter were $7,899 million, 5% below prior year or 1% above when excluding negative currency impact. Compared to prior year, underlying sales increased 7% from 8% price attainment partially offset by 1% lower volumes.
Fourth-quarter operating profit was $1,687 million. Adjusted operating profit of $2,001 million was up 9% versus prior year led by higher price and continued productivity initiatives across all segments. Adjusted operating profit margin of 25.3% was 310 basis points above prior year and 350 basis points higher when excluding the effects of cost pass-through.
Fourth-quarter operating cash flow of $2,095 million decreased 35% versus prior year driven primarily by lower engineering project prepayments. After capital expenditures of $936 million, free cash flow was $1,159 million. During the quarter, the company returned $1,264 million to shareholders through dividends and stock repurchases, net of issuances.
For full-year 2022, sales were $33.4 billion, 8% above 2021. Compared to prior year, underlying sales increased 8% from 7% price attainment and 1% higher volumes. Sales growth was broad-based across all end markets except healthcare. Operating profit was $5.4 billion and adjusted operating profit was $7.9 billion, 10% above prior year. Adjusted operating profit margin was 23.7% of sales, 40 basis points higher versus 2021, or 160 basis points higher when excluding the effects of cost pass-through. Diluted earnings per share were $8.23 and adjusted diluted earnings per share were $12.29, up 15% versus prior year.
In 2022, Linde generated strong operating cash flow of $8.9 billion. The company invested $3.2 billion in capital expenditures and returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks $7.5 billion, 11% above prior year.
Commenting on the financial results and business outlook, Chief Executive Officer Sanjiv Lamba said, “Despite the challenging environment, the Linde team again delivered outstanding performance including a record ROC of 22.9%, expanding operating margin to 25.3% and a ninth consecutive quarter of delivering 20% or more EPS growth ex. FX. This resilient performance is a result of our balanced end market portfolio, unrivaled network density and rigorous capital discipline.”
Lamba continued, “Looking ahead, the geopolitical and macro environment continues to remain uncertain. However, we are well positioned to win more than our fair share of high-quality projects, primarily in clean-energy and again create shareholder value by leveraging all the opportunities that lie ahead.”
For the full year 2023, the company expects adjusted diluted earnings per share to be in the range of $13.15 to $13.55, up 7% to 10% versus prior year or 9% to 12% when excluding estimated currency headwinds. Full-year capital expenditures are expected to range between $3.5 billion and $4.0 billion to support operating and growth requirements, including the contractual sale of gas backlog. For the first quarter 2023, adjusted earnings per share is expected to be in the range of $3.05 to $3.15, 4% to 8% above prior-year quarter. This range estimates 5% unfavorable currency.