Once again during the period there was a very positive trend in cash flow from operating activities. In the first three months of 2016, it increased by 19.3 percent to EUR 883 m (2015: EUR 740 m). The change in working capital of EUR 24 m (2015: EUR –161 m) made a positive contribution to operating cash flow. This was mainly due to a higher figure for advance payments received from plant construction customers. In addition, income taxes paid fell as a result of tax repayments by EUR 63 m to EUR 36 m (2015: EUR 99 m).
Linde spent a total of EUR 419 m during the reporting period on investments in tangible assets, intangible assets and financial assets, which was below the figure for the first quarter of 2015 of EUR 452 m. Payments made for investments in consolidated companies rose to EUR 180 m (2015: EUR 71 m), most of which related to the acquisition of US company American HomePatient, Inc. Payments of EUR 109 m were made in the first three months of 2016 to purchase securities for the purpose of short-term investment (2015: EUR 51 m). The net cash outflow from investing activities during the reporting period was EUR 655 m, which was EUR 128 m higher than in the prior-year period (2015: EUR 527 m). At 31 March 2016, free cash flow was EUR 228 m (2015: EUR 213 m).
Within cash flow from financing activities, the amount by which loan redemptions exceeded loan proceeds in the first quarter of 2016 was EUR 112 m. In the first quarter of 2015, the amount by which loan proceeds exceeded loan redemptions was EUR 46 m. The net cash outflow from financing activities in the three months to 31 March 2016 was EUR 168 m (2015: EUR 12 m).
Total assets fell by EUR 566 m, from EUR 35.347 bn at 31 December 2015 to EUR 34.781 bn at 31 March 2016. Almost all the balance sheet items felt the impact of adverse exchange rate effects.
At 31 March 2016, goodwill stood at EUR 11.458 bn, which was EUR 146 m below the figure at 31 December 2015 of EUR 11.604 bn. The decrease in goodwill was the result of two opposing factors. Adverse exchange rate effects of EUR 297 m reduced goodwill, while additions as a result of acquisitions led to an increase in goodwill of EUR 154 m.
Other intangible assets, comprising customer relationships, brand names and sundry intangible assets, decreased by EUR 114 m, from EUR 2.760 bn at 31 December 2015 to EUR 2.646 bn at 31 March 2016. Negative exchange rate effects of EUR 82 m and amortisation of EUR 73 m were set against additions of EUR 35 m.
Tangible assets are stated at a carrying amount of EUR 12.389 bn at 31 March 2016 (31 December 2015: EUR 12.782 bn). The decrease of EUR 393 m was partly due to adverse exchange rate effects of EUR 277 m. Depreciation was EUR 386 m, whereas acquisitions and investments resulted in an increase in tangible assets of EUR 332 m.
Trade receivables rose by EUR 46 m from EUR 2.724 bn to EUR 2.770 bn. Included in the total figure are adverse exchange rate effects of EUR 63 m. Securities increased by EUR 109 m to EUR 530 m, mainly as a result of purchases (31 December 2015: EUR 421 m).
Equity at 31 March 2016 was EUR 14.834 bn (31 December 2015: EUR 15.449 bn). The profit for the period increased equity by EUR 333 m. Factors with a negative impact on equity were adverse exchange rate effects of EUR 771 m and the effects of the remeasurement of pension plans of EUR 370 m. The equity ratio at 31 March 2016 was 42.6 percent (31 December 2015: 43.7 percent). It should be noted that the dividend for 2015 will be paid in the second quarter of 2016.
Provisions for pensions and similar obligations rose by EUR 478 m to EUR 1.546 bn at 31 March 2016 (31 December 2015: EUR 1.068 bn). This increase was mainly due to the change in actuarial assumptions. Asset cover for the defined benefit obligation of The Linde Group is 79.2 percent (2015: 86.4 percent). The reduction in the asset cover is mainly due to the increase in the pension obligation. This is primarily the result of the decrease in discount rates.
Net financial debt comprises gross financial debt less short-term securities and cash and cash equivalents. At 31 March 2016, net financial debt was EUR 7.183 bn (31 December 2015: EUR 7.645 bn).
Gross financial debt fell during the reporting period by EUR 313 m to EUR 9.170 bn (31 December 2015: EUR 9.483 bn). Factors contributing to this decrease were not only the effects arising from the deconsolidation of a company, but also exchange rate effects and good cash flow from operating activities. Of the gross financial debt, EUR 916 m (31 December 2015: EUR 1.023 bn) is disclosed as current financial debt. The remaining financial debt of EUR 8.254 bn (31 December 2015: EUR 8.460 bn) – by far the largest proportion – is due in more than one year and is therefore classified as non-current financial debt.
With short-term securities of EUR 530 m, cash and cash equivalents of EUR 1.457 bn and its EUR 2.5 bn syndicated credit facility, available liquidity for Linde at 31 March 2016 was EUR 3.571 bn (31 December 2015: EUR 3.315 bn).
The dynamic indebtedness factor (net financial debt to operating profit for the last twelve months) was 1.7 at 31 March 2016, below the figure at 31 December 2015 of 1.9. The Group’s gearing (the ratio of net debt to equity) improved in the first quarter of 2016 to 48.4 percent (31 December 2015: 49.5 percent).