Airgas Inc., the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, medical, and specialty gases, welding, safety, and related products, announced that it expects to exceed guidance for its first quarter ending June 30, 2007.

The company now expects first quarter earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $0.61 to $0.63, which is approximately 17 percent above previous EPS estimates of $0.52 to $0.54.

“The increased estimate is primarily driven by stronger than expected same-store sales, which were running at 9 percent through May, exceeding the pace we saw in the fourth quarter and in early April,” said Airgas Chairman and CEO Peter McCausland.

“We have seen good growth in both gas and hardgoods same-store sales with strong demand across our customer base, including manufacturing and non-residential construction sectors. Our new guidance assumes continued sales momentum through June.”

Airgas is one of the largest U.S. distributors of safety products, the largest U.S. producer of nitrous oxide and dry ice, the largest liquid carbon dioxide producer in the Southeast, and a leading distributor of process chemicals, refrigerants, and ammonia products. More than 11,500 employees work in over 900 locations, including branches, retail stores, gas fill plants, specialty gas labs, production facilities and distribution centers. Airgas also distributes its products and services through eBusiness, catalog and telesales channels.