Air Liquide chief executive Benoit Potier.

Paris - French group Air Liquide, a leading supplier of gases for industrial processes, reported a slight rise in first-half net profit on Thursday and stood by its forecasts, but the shares fell.

Net profit edged up 0.4 percent to 755 million euros (R11 billion), but in common with many French groups, the company said it had been held back badly by the strength of the euro recently.

The group said that at constant exchange rates, the net figure rose by 5.0 percent from the equivalent period last year.

Air Liquide is an indicator of the health of the international industries it serves, including the medical sector and hospitals, and chief executive Benoit Potier said he was more focused on the positive aspects of the results.

The operating margin, a key measure of profitability, jumped by 10.0 percentage points to 16.7 percent.

“We have the ingredients for growth which while modest is some areas, was much stronger in others,” he told a press conference.

He said the performance was “solid” and had been undermined by “very big” unfavourable currency factors.

The group expected this to weigh less in the second half since the euro had risen strongly in the last two years

The group said it still expected an increase in net profit in 2014 as it implements cost-cutting measures to offset the currency variations.

Sales fell 0.7 percent in the first six months of the year to 7.5 billion euros - up 4.8 percent excluding currency effects.

Markets were unimpressed with Air Liquide's results, however, with shares in the group falling close to 3.0 percent to 96.54 euros by late morning in Paris. - Sapa-AFP