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A week after announcing price increases for industrial gases—including nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, among others—industrial gas producer and supplier, Praxair Inc. (PX - Analyst Report) raised prices for bulk purchase of liquid helium for its customers.

The change, which implies an increase of up to 30%, will be effective from January 1, 2013 for all bulk helium transactions in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Higher raw material costs and maintenance of supply/demand balance were the prime catalysts driving this revision.

It is also worth mentioning that recently, Praxair’s prime competitor, Air Products & Chemicals Inc. (APD - Analyst Report) announced increases in bulk and liquid helium prices for its North American customers. The price revision will come into effect from January 1, 2013 and will enable Air Products to cover rising costs to maintain supply and secure new sources for its customers.

Long-term prospects look promising for Praxair with increasing application areas for industrial gases. Chemical processing, petroleum refining, metal production, fabricating, electronics and health care industries are widely using these gases. By 2015, the company targets to achieve annual organic sales growth of 8%-12%; operating profit growth of 10%-15%, and earnings growth of 12%-18%.

The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for the fourth quarter stands at $1.38, representing a year-over-year increase of 1.8%. Estimates for years 2012 and 2013 are $5.57 and $6.18, reflecting annual growth of 2.5% and 11.1%, respectively.

We currently maintain a Neutral recommendation on Praxair. The stock also currently bears a Zacks #4 Rank, implying a short-term Sell rating. Air Products & Chemicals has a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold).
 

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