Airgas, Inc., the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, medical, and specialty gases, and related supplies, reported record net earnings of $77.7 million, or $1.01 per diluted share, for its second quarter ended September 30, 2011.

Second quarter sales were $1.19 billion, an increase of 12% over the prior year. Total same-store sales grew 10% in the quarter, with hardgoods up 14% and gas and rent up 7%. Acquisitions contributed sales growth of 2% in the quarter. Sequentially, sales increased 2% from the first quarter both in total and on a sales-per-day basis.

“We continue to see strength in the manufacturing-intensive regions of the U.S. and in our petrochemical and energy customers,” said Airgas Chief Executive Officer Peter McCausland.

“The relative outperformance in our hardgoods business on the strength of sales to large manufacturing customers and the mix shift within hardgoods to welding and automation equipment had a dilutive effect on our gross margin, but are generally indicative of sustained activity levels in the manufacturing economy. While this is cause for optimism, given the global economic uncertainty that unfolded during the quarter, we are paying close attention to our business trends and have proven in the past that we can quickly adjust our cost structure if warranted.”

Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), through its subsidiaries, is the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, medical, and specialty gases, and hardgoods, such as welding equipment and supplies. Airgas is also 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 14,000 employees work in approximately 1,100 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. Its national scale and strong local presence offer a competitive edge to its diversified customer base. For more information, please visit