Air Products and Chemicals sells gases such as hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, and oxygen to industrial manufacturers and commercial end-users of industrial and lab-purity gas.
Gases are vital inputs to many manufacturing processes, and APD is one of the largest global bulk gas sellers. For large customers, APD will put one of its own plants next to the customers' factory and supply gas directly via pipeline.
In 2009, APD generated $631.3 million in net income on $8.26 billion in total revenues. This represents a 30.6% decrease in net income on a 20.7% decrease in total revenues from 2008, when the company earned $909.7 million on revenues of $10.41 billion.
This segment industrial and lab purity species of gases such as oxygen, nitro, and hydrogen. This segment chiefly supplies the metals, glass, chemical processing, manufacturing, and energy industries. The distinction between this segment and the Tonnage Gases segment is chiefly one of how the product is delivered. Volume in Merchant gases is lower, and often delivered by tanker or tube trailer, or smaller containers.
APD's old "Healthcare" segment, which sells home-based medical treatment, including chemical therapy, beds, and wheelchairs, is now a part of the "Merchant Gases" segment.
In this segment, gases are supplied in very large quantities, and Air Products often places its plants adjacent to its customers, delivering gas via pipeline, and thus saving on transportation costs. This arrangement leads to reliable supply of gas as well as significant discounting of costs for the client, and often plants are designed with contractual arrangements in mind ensuring a steady relationship between APD and its client.
This segment specializes in delivery of products relevant to the electronics industry, for the manufacture of silicon, semiconductors, displays, and photovoltaic devices. APD also has a chemical materials business that also sells related products to clients in this segment. 
This segment designs and sells equipment for energy production, and also partially owns and operates several small energy plants around the world.
APD's gases are inputs to many chemical and energy processes necessary for the production of energy and the manufacture of electronic devices. In addition, APD is the largest mover of hydrogen gas worldwide, which offers tremendous upside in any potential future hydrogen-based energy economy - such as one in which cars are powered by hydrogen fuel cells instead of gasoline.
On the other hand, this exposure can be a double-edged sword. Significant economic contraction would impact consumer consumption, which will reduce consumer demand for goods and energy. Consumer demand is the lifeblood of manufacturing, and even more so for high-risk industries like electronics, where goods are typically consumer wants, rather than consumer needs.
Although the majority of APD's gases are environmentally innocuous, many of its customers use industrial gases in ways that are facing scrutiny. In addition, regulation adds to administrative costs to APD. For example, the European Union now requires volume producers of chemicals to register their chemicals and all their uses with the European Chemicals Agency. This has both positive and negative effects for APD, as industrial gases can be used to improve energy efficiency as well as environmental performance, but demand for gases will decrease if regulation makes client businesses less profitable.
Cost of electricity is the most significant component in cost of goods sold in the gases segments, and significant amounts of energy are required in any of APD's plants. If prices were to substantially rise, APD will either be forced to pass-through costs to clients, or if it is not able to do so, take a hit to its margins.
Historically, this complicated relationship with energy was evidenced during the 1970s energy crisis. Increasing petrochemical fuel costs lowered revenues in that segment, but increased popularity of oxygen as a fuel. In addition, the higher input costs were offset by higher demand for other gases to create cheaper energy sources, such as liquified natural gas.
These 3 global suppliers operate on similar platforms to Air Products and Chemicals. Firms compete on a variety of factors, including price, performance or specifications, continuity of supply, and customer service.
Since another large component of cost of goods sold is transportation, regional players can compete effectively against APD when they have on-site or cheaper delivery options.