JOINING THE NYSE
In December 1986 a much stronger Airgas made an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $4.6 million. In September 1987, the stock market having improved, an additional $15.4 million was raised. Proceeds funded an aggressive acquisition program.
1992: AIRGAS AT 10
Don Carlino, member of the acquisition team
Acquisitions took place at the rate of two or three a month, utilizing the “anchor and add on” strategy. In fiscal year 1988 there were 16 acquisitions; in 1989, 29 more; in 1990, another 24; and in 1991, another 21. In 1988, Airgas had 100 locations around the country; a year later, 200 locations; in 1990, 225; and in 1991, almost 250 locations.
By 1992, Airgas operated 25 regional hubs, including Sierra Airgas, Mountain Airgas, Midwest Airgas, New Hampshire Airgas, Lone Star, Cascade, Keystone, Gulf States, Great Lakes, Great Western and Airgas Canada. At 10 years old, the company’s annual sales topped $350 million.
CYLINDERS AS A SOLID INVESTMENT
One key to growth lay in rental fees from the gas cylinders themselves. Within four years those fees could cover the cost of a cylinder. However, the cylinders have lives of half a century or more. Cylinders can be used for decades after they are depreciated, with the freed-up cash flow going to pay down debt and make fresh acquisitions. Cylinders are also a proven means of hedging against inflation.