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Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE:APD)
Q1 2019 Earnings Conference Call
Jan. 25, 2019 10:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Please stand by, we're about to begin. Good day everyone, and welcome to Air Products and Chemicals first-quarter earnings release conference. Today's call is being recorded at the request of Air Products. Please note that this presentation and the comments made on behalf of Air Products are subject to copyright by Air Products, and all rights are reserved.

Beginning Today's call is Mr. Simon Moore, vice president of investor relations. Please go ahead.

Simon Moore -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you, April. Good morning everyone. Welcome to Air Products first-quarter 2019 earnings results teleconference. This is Simon Moore, vice president of investor relations.

I'm pleased to be joined today by Seifi Ghasemi, our chairman, president and CEO; Scott Crocco, our executive vice president and chief financial officer; and Sean Major, our executive vice president, general counsel and secretary. After our comments, we'll be pleased to take your questions. Our earnings release and the slides for this call are available on our web site at airproducts.com. Please refer to the forward-looking statement disclosure that can be found in our earnings release and on Slide No.

2. Now I'm pleased to turn the call over to Seifi.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Simon, and good morning to everyone. Thank you for joining us on our call, and we do appreciate your interest in Air Products. The talented, motivated and committed team at Air Products delivered another quarter of strong safety and financial results. Our quarterly adjusted earnings per share of $1.86 represents the 19th consecutive quarter that we have reported year-on-year quarterly EPS growth.

Excluding the impact of a plant sale last year, our EPS was up 9%. We continue to be the safest and most profitable industrial gas company in the world with an EBITDA margin above 35%. We are in a very strong financial position, and our business generates significant cash flow. This allows us to continue to invest capital into value-creating projects to profitably grow the company while also continuing to return cash to our shareholders.

Yesterday we announced our 37th consecutive year of dividend increase. We are proud of our new quarterly dividend of $1.16, and I like to stress, quarterly dividend of $1.16 per share, which in turn means that we did return about $1 billion in cash to our shareholders over the next year. At Air Products, we have a great, talented and committed team who stay focused on serving our customers and creating value for our shareholders every day. Now please turn to Slide No.

3. All of our 16,000 employees around the world are focused on safety. And as a result, we have improved our lost time injury rate by 83% and our recordable injury rate by 33% since 2014. On Slide No.

4, you can see our goal, which is to be the best, safest, most diverse and most profitable industrial gas company in the world, providing excellent service to our customers. On Slide No. 5, you can see our overall management philosophy that we have shared with you many times before. We have come a long way over the last four years.

However, we continue to be focused on shareholder value, capital allocation and an empowered and decentralized organization. Now please turn to Slide No. 6 to see our five-point strategic plan. We remain focused on sustaining our lead in safety and financial performance.

We continue to see tremendous opportunities to deploy capital in value-creating projects, primarily in our on-site business. Scott will take you through the numbers, but let me provide you a quick overview of our progress. Since the start of fiscal-year 2018, we have spent and committed over eight billion dollars on exciting new growth projects. Both Scott and I remain committed to managing our debt balance to maintain our current targeted Aa2 rating.

At this rating, we believe we still have about $14 billion remaining to invest. So we have already spent or committed over half of the $16 billion available over the five-year period of fiscal-year '18 to fiscal-year '22. We recently announced new projects in California, Minnesota, India, Algeria and China. We have made great progress so far, and I remain very confident, and I like to stress the word very confident, of our ability to deploy this capital into hydrogen industrial gas projects that will generate significant value for our shareholders.

The fourth point of our plan is to continue to improve our 4S culture, meaning safety, simplicity, speed and self-confidence; to create a committed and motivated environment that our team brings their positive attitudes and open minds to work every day. And finally, we do have a higher purpose to create an inclusive and enjoyable environment for all of our people so that everybody feels proud to innovate, solve challenges and contribute to our communities. We remain focused on executing this five-point plan. Our goal is to be the best industrial gas company in the world, not the biggest.

Now please turn to Slide No. 7 where you can see our dividend history. As I said, we are proud of our 37-year record of increasing the dividend. And we are excited about giving over $1 billion to our shareholders in 2019 via dividend in cash.

This direct cash return to our shareholders complements the tremendous investment opportunities that will drive Air Products' growth for many years to come. On Slide No. 8, you can see our gasification strategy that continues to be a key focus of our investment opportunities. Gasification is just another way to make syngas that can be turned into a wide variety of products including chemicals, diesel fuel, high-end olefins, polymers, hydrogen and/or power.

A key benefit of gasification is that it enables an environmentally friendly way to use lower value feedstocks. We have successfully supported this market over the last few years with very large air separation units, providing oxygen to customers operating their gasifiers in China and Saudi Arabia. We have announced four large projects where Air Products will own and operate the gasifiers and syngas clean-up, and provide syngas and/or related products to our customers. The key is that these projects are consistent with our on-site business model where we don't have any raw material or product volume or price risk.

The Lu'An project that we had announced before is fully on a stream, thanks to the continued effort of our great team in China and continuous to successfully supply syngas to Lu'An for their chemical production. You see the positive impact of Lu'An in our Asia and company results this quarter, and we remain confident Lu'An will deliver over $0.25 of earnings per share in fiscal-year '19. And we continue to make good progress on the other gasification projects we have announced. Now please turn to Slide No.

9. We remain committed to our goal of being the most profitable industrial gas company in the world as measured by each of these three metrics, and we are. Now please go to Slide N0. 10, which is always my favorite slide, showing the over 1,000-basis-point improvement in our EBITDA margin.

Finally, please turn to Slide No. 11. The successful execution of our strategy will allow us to deliver 13% compounded annual earnings-per-share growth over the last five years based on the midpoint of our fiscal-year '19 guidance. We will continue to execute our strategy, and we believe we will deliver and increase our earnings per share by at least 10% per year on average over the coming years.

Now I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Scott Crocco, our executive vice president and chief financial officer, to discuss the results in details. Scott?

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you very much, Seifi. Now please turn to Slide 12 for a summary of our Q1 results. As Seifi said, our team delivered another strong quarter, with underlying volumes and pricing up across all three regions. Before I get into the results, as a reminder, we had a plant sale in China in the first quarter of last year so we will help you understand our results excluding this event.

Also during this quarter, we agreed with our customer in India to restructure our hydrogen supply agreement to exclude natural gas pass-through and turn this into a tolling arrangement. This change has no impact on our profits, but it does reduce company sales, as well as sales for our EMEA segment. So we're showing the sales impact in the other line. This change only impacted December, so it will be a larger impact beginning next quarter.

Overall reported sales of $2.2 billion were flat, but we're up 9% excluding the Jazan sale of equipment, the prior-year plant sale and the India contract language change. Excluding Jazan and the plant sale, volumes grew 5%, with positive-based volumes up in all three regions and the full on stream of Lu'An in Asia. Sequential volumes were down 4%, primarily due to customer planned maintenance outages and weaker seasonal volumes. Price improved in all three regions for the second consecutive quarter.

Merchant pricing rose 3%, which translated to an increase of 1% for the total company. Negative currency was driven by the Chinese RMB, the euro, the India rupee and the Chilean peso. EBITDA of nearly $800 million improved 8% and was up 12% excluding the prior-year plant sale. This improvement was driven by higher volumes, positive pricing and equity affiliate income, partially offset by higher costs and unfavorable currency.

EBITDA margin of 35.7% was up 250 basis points compared to prior year. Adjusted earnings per share of $1.86 were up 4% versus prior year and up 9% excluding the prior-year plant sale. ROCE of 12.4% improved 50 basis points versus last year, primarily due to higher profits. Please turn to Slide 13.

We had non-GAAP items this quarter that totaled $0.29 per share. This included $0.10 for an asset write off for a government-enforced customer plant shutdown. We continue to negotiate this situation but do not anticipate additional charges. We also had negative $0.19 from our revised estimates of the Tax Act impact.

Our first quarter adjusted continuing operations EPS as $1.86 was up $0.07 per share and up $0.15 excluding the prior-year plant sale. Overall, higher volumes increased EPS by $0.13. Excluding the prior-year plant sale, volume contributed $0.21. Price and raw materials taken together increased EPS by $0.05.

Net cost performance was unfavorable $0.06 as productivity in Asia was offset by higher costs in Americas. Additionally, and as we have said in the past, we continue to see costs associated with our investment in capabilities in our business development, engineering, project execution and technology areas to drive growth in the future. Currency and foreign exchange was $0.04 unfavorable, primarily due to the Chinese RMB and the euro. Equity affiliate income added $0.03, primarily due to new plants and operational strength in Mexico.

The overall tax rate was a $0.03 headwind versus last year, consistent with our expectations. We expect the FY '19 tax rate to be in the range of 19% to 20%. Finally, we had other items that combined for a negative $0.01, including higher non-operating income offset by higher interest expense. Now please turn to Slide 14.

We continue to generate strong cash flow. During the last 12 months, we generated almost $11 per share, or $2.3 billion of distributable cash flow, nearly $100 million higher than fiscal-year 2018. The $2.3 billion of distributable cash flow allowed us to pay over $900 million, or about 40%, as dividends and still have over $1.4 billion available for high-return investments in our core industrial gas business. This strong cash flow enables us to create shareholder value through increasing dividends and capital deployment.

Slide No. 15 shows our capital deployment progress and is an update of the information we introduced last quarter. Since the start of FY 2018, we have spent about $1.8 billion on M&A and growth projects, excluding maintenance capital. In addition, we have committed but not yet spent almost $6.5 billion on projects and M&A.

We continue to focus on managing our debt balance to maintain our current targeted Aa2 rating. If we maintain this rating at a debt level of about at a debt level of about three times the last 12 months' EBITDA, we have over $8.5 billion available to invest today. And based on our last 12 months' investable cash flow, we expect to have almost $5.5 billion over the remaining there and three-quarter years. Therefore in total, we have about $14 billion remaining to invest.

The almost $2 billion we have spent so far, and the $14 billion available, gives us a total of almost $16 billion of total available capacity for FY 2018 through FY 2022. So you can see we have spent over 10% and committed over half of our total available capacity. Now to begin the review of our business segment results, I'll turn the call back over to Seifi.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Scott. Please turn to Slide 16, Asia, where we continue to deliver strong sales and profit growth. I was just in Asia last week and remain very excited about our growth opportunities. We have an excellent and committed team running our business in Asia.

At this point, we have not seen any meaningful impact on our business or projects as a result of any trade issues between the United States and China. It will be interesting, however, to see how the Lunar New Year holiday impacts the economy this coming quarter. We remain focused on our business in China and very positive on our long-term growth prospects in China. Sales were cheapest and lower than last year, with 2% lower volume and 3% unfavorable currency, partially offset by better pricing and higher energy pass-through.

Excluding the impact of plant sale last year that Scott mentioned, sales were up 16%. Again, excluding the impact of plant sale last year, volumes were up 17%, with new projects, primarily Lu'An, driving about 10% of the increase while the base business and the small acquisitions accounted for the rest. Overall, for the region, overall pricing for the region was up 1% versus last year, the seventh consecutive quarter of year-on-year price improvement. The merchant business pricing was up 3%, with positive pricing across all subregions in Asia.

The strong volumes and pricing plus favorable productivity increased both profits and margins. EBITDA increased by over 20%, and EBITDA margin improved 920 basis points. Excluding prior-year plants sale, EBITDA was up more than 30%, and margins were up 470 basis points. Sequentially, profits and margins increased due to productivity and the full running rate from Lu'An.

Now I would like to turn the call back over to Scott to discuss our American results.

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Seifi. Please turn to Slide 17 for a review of our Americas results. For the quarter, sales grew 9%, with both volume and price up 2%. Higher energy pass-through added 7%, more than offsetting a negative 2% currency effect.

Volumes from new plants and North America-based merchant were both positive and overcame weaker Latin America volumes and customer planned maintenance outages negatively impacting hydrogen volumes. Overall, this is the eighth consecutive quarter of volume improvement for the region. The impact of our pricing actions is also gaining momentum as price was up 2%, the best result in three years. Merchant pricing was up 4%.

Americas EBITDA increased 4% as improved volume and price, as well as higher equity affiliate income due to better results in Mexico, were partially offset by increased costs. While the team remains focused on driving productivity, we continue to see higher transportation and maintenance costs. EBITDA margin excluding the impact of energy pass-through was up 50 basis points. Sequentially, planned customer maintenance outages negatively impacted both hydrogen volumes and maintenance costs.

Excluding the impact of energy pass-through, sequential EBITDA margin was down 130 basis points. Now I would like to turn the call back over to Simon to discuss our other segments. Simon?

Simon Moore -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you, Scott. Please turn to Slide 18 for a review of our EMEA results. Sales were up 2%, primarily driven by 1% better volumes and 2% higher price. 6% higher energy pass-through was offset by unfavorable currency and the contract modification in India.

As Scott mentioned, this change to a tolling agreement reduces sales and volumes but has no profit impact. Price and volume were both up for the quarter as we continued to see solid demand in the merchant market and positive results from our pricing actions. Merchant price grew 4% for the quarter. We did not see any negative impacts associated with the Brexit uncertainty during this quarter.

EBITDA was nearly flat as positive volume and price were offset primarily by negative currency. EBITDA margin was 31.6%, down 70 basis points. Excluding the impact of higher energy pass-through, EBITDA margin was up 80 basis points, primarily due to the India plant contract change. Sequentially, volumes were down on seasonality.

Price was slightly positive but rounded to flat. The EBITDA decrease was primarily due to currency and a reduction in equity affiliate income following a seasonally strong fourth quarter in our Italy joint venture. Now please turn to Slide 19 for a brief comment on our global gases segment, which includes our air separation unit, sale of equipment business, as well as central industrial gas business costs. Sales and EBITDA declined due to lower project activity as we approach the conclusion of the Jazan ASU sale of equipment project.

We continue to expect the Jazan ASU project on stream in phases in fiscal 2019. And as previously communicated, we expect the Jazan ASU overall to be a headwind for FY '19 versus FY '18. Now please turn to Slide 20 for a brief comment on our corporate segment, which includes our LNG business, our helium container business and our corporate costs. Sales and profits were about flat compared to prior year, with no significant change in the LNG business.

We continue to be optimistic about future prospects for the LNG business but have not yet seen the industry optimism translate into firm orders. Now I'm pleased to turn the call back over to Seifi for a discussion of our outlook.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Simon. As you all know very well, we are living in a very uncertain world today. Air Products can't predict or control worldwide political or economic developments, but we do have control over our operational performance and our growth investments. And we are confident we will continue to deliver on the commitments we have made despite the world events.

We have not seen any material impact on Air Products at this point from these global uncertainties as demonstrated by our results in the first quarter. Our team around the world continues to be very excited about Air Products' future. Our five-point strategic plan provides the framework to drive our success going forward. And our safety, productivity and operating performance continue to provide the foundation for our continued growth.

We have the financial capacity, the opportunities and the team to successfully win key growth projects. Now please turn to Slide No. 21. We are all working hard every day to be the safest, most diverse and most profitable industrial gas company in the world, providing excellent service to our customers.

Despite increased economic and political uncertainty, our guidance for the fiscal-year 2019 remains unchanged and is in a range of $8.05 to $8.30 per share. And despite currency headwinds, at midpoint, our guidance represents 10% growth over our very strong fiscal-year 2018 performance. For quarter two of fiscal-year 2019, our earnings per share guidance is $1.80 to $1.90 at midpoint, up 8% over last year. We continue to expect our capital expenditure to be in the range of $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion for fiscal-year 2019.

And finally, please turn to Slide No. 22. As always, our real competitive advantage is the commitment and motivation of the great team we have at Air Products. This is what allows us to continue to generate our superior safety and operational performance.

I want to thank all of our 16,000 people around the world for their total commitment and hard work and for embracing the opportunities in front of us with energy and a spirit of working together. Now we are delighted to answer your questions. 

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] And we'll first hear from Don Carson of Susquehanna.

Don Carson -- Susquehanna Financial Group -- Analyst

Thank you, good morning, Seifi.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Don. How are you doing?

Don Carson -- Susquehanna Financial Group -- Analyst

Very well, thank you. You commented that you can't control economic events obviously, but could you sort of do a walk around the world just in terms of what you're seeing in your base business, given that we're hearing that in many regions industrial production is slowing?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. I start from Asia. We continue to see very good growth in countries like Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, all of those countries; India out of those countries. With respect to China, we I have not seen any slowdown yet.

The only thing that concerns us, and we are keeping an eye on it, is how is the Lunar New Year in China play out. That means that our people going to take longer shutdowns because of the way that the Chinese New Year is kind of situated calendar wise? That people would take longer weekends or longer? That is the only thing that we are watching. And quite frankly, that is one of the reasons that, contrary to our usual practice, we have given you a guidance of $0.10 rather than $0.05 a spread for this quarter. So that is, as I said, we have not seen any significant slowdown in our business in China but the lunar new year and how it plays can have an effect, and that is why you can say that we are conservative in our guidance for the quarter.

The rest of Asia is doing very well, as I said. When we come in Europe, Europe is flat. Again, the concern that we have is all of the turmoil with respect to Brexit, what would be the effect in the next few months on the pound exchange rate and also the business in our business in United Kingdom. As you know, we have a big business there.

So that is again another reason why we were conservative in our estimates for the second quarter. In the United States, things have not changed since we have talked last time. There is a slowdown of industrial production, but we do not see any material impact on our results, and that is why we are not changing our overall estimate for the year. We do expect a stronger second half than the first half because of some of the projects and pricing actions that we have taken.

And that is why we remain very confident about the guidance that we have given for the year. In addition, I also have to add that things remain very, very negative in Latin America, but that's not a big part of our business.

Don Carson -- Susquehanna Financial Group -- Analyst

OK, and then a quick follow up. I noticed on Slide 13 your price cost gap narrowed considerably. It was only a $0.01 negative delta versus $0.14 last quarter. So how are you able to narrow that delta specifically on the cost side where it was only a $0.06 drag this quarter versus $0.16 last quarter?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, as you recall in the last call, I was very transparent about my dissatisfaction with our cost performance. So obviously everybody took that to heart and we have worked very hard on productivity to improve our cost position. And we hope to see that number improving as we go forward. So we have taken action, Don.

Don Carson -- Susquehanna Financial Group -- Analyst

All right, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

And next we'll hear from Christopher Parkinson of Credit Suisse.

Christopher Parkinson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thank you. Given the circumstances, your result in Asia was pretty solid. Can you just parse out the key volume drivers outside of Lu'An, as well as your intermediate term expectations post the new year? Just that, and any quick views on the merchant market operates etc. would be helpful, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Chris. Sure. Obviously, Lu'An was about 10% of the growth. But the rest of the growth, we are reporting Asia results, the rest of the growth is coming from, as I said, China despite what everybody said, a slowdown, a slowdown, but they are growing at 6.6%.

So we see the benefit of that in our merchant business. But in addition, as I said, countries like Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, they are doing very well and they contributed to our positive results.

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Maybe if I could just add also that this is also an area that we saw good cost improvement, as Seifi mentioned earlier. Nice cost performance in the quarter, too.

Christopher Parkinson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thank you, that's helpful. Perfect. And then also you mentioned plant refinery outages in North America affecting results, but this was also a theme last year. Regarding the year-on-year comp, can you just comment if the planned downtime was in line with your initial expectations? And then also just what are your updated views on hydrogen demands intermediate to long term in the U.S., globally, etc? Thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. First of all, the plant outages are totally in line with expectations. As we grow our business, and we have more and more hydrogen plants obviously to turn around, there are more turnarounds [Inaudible] but there is nothing out of line, they are all in accordance with our expectation. There is nothing unexpected has happened.

With respect to hydrogen demand, obviously a significant driver for our hydrogen demand in the U.S. is how many miles people drive and the gasoline demand. But that continuous to remain stable. As for the future, as you know, we have announced two new hydrogen plants that we are going to build, liquid hydrogen plants.

We see significant growth opportunities for liquid hydrogen. And in terms of the so-called gaseous hydrogen, there are projects being discussed in the United States, in the Gulf Coast and other areas that would require significant amounts of hydrogen for the production of chemicals, and we will obviously participate on that. So overall, we remain very positive.

Christopher Parkinson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Next we'll hear from Robert Schwartz of Goldman Sachs.

Robert Schwartz -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks very much, good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Bob. How are you doing?

Robert Schwartz -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

I'm doing well, thank you. It strikes me that over the last couple of years, you've moved toward maybe lifting or improving the stability of the organization by some of the divestitures you've made and then enhancing some of these large gasification projects. And yet your multiple continues to go in the wrong direction. So I'm wondering, can you help frame through your competitive advantage and what it means to have such a significant on-site presence and sort of how you see that developing and what it means to the volatility of your business?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Bob, first of all, thank you for your comment. We definitely have moved in the direction of stabilizing the business, getting the company focused on the right business and significantly enhancing our on-site presence because that is a much more stable business. And we have changed our business model to get into syngas production where we see significant opportunity. We do have a lot of cash on hand, we have a very strong balance sheet.

And with the acquisition of the technologies from Shell and GE and others, we are in a very strong position to be the leader in gasification. And there are many many, many, many opportunities. As for why our multiple, I'm not selling Air Product stock. I mean, my job is to articulate our strategy and tell our investors what we are doing, and then they will decide the multiples.

I think the market is underestimating our ability to deploy the cash. And I also understand that there is a lot of concern about gasification. It's a new area. There was a lot of concern when we announced Lu'An about what is this, do you know how to run gasifiers and all of that.

I'm hoping that as we go forward we demonstrate that we can run these facilities. And as we sign more large deals, which will significantly strengthen our portfolio, that the investors will give us due consideration in time. As I said, my job is not to argue about the multiple. My job is to explain and articulate out a strategy.

And I think in time the investors will see where we are as compared to our competitors.

Robert Schwartz -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

I appreciate that. Can I ask you very briefly on the Shell technology you guys have mentioned, applying that maybe to help solve some of the high sulfur resid streams as companies try to adhere to the I&O 2020 standards. And 2020 is pretty close. Is that something that looks like there's some development there? Or is it getting pushed out? Is this a meaningful opportunity, or just something maybe on the periphery for that business?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Bob, it is a meaningful opportunity. The best example of that is the $8 billion project that we are doing in Saudi Arabia. That is all about taking the bottom of the refinery and gasifying it and upgrading it because they wouldn't be able to sell that to the market for fueling the ships. So that is the message.

This opportunity is great, there is a great opportunity. The issue is that a lot of people are not taking action because they are hoping that the implementation of I&O '20 will be delayed. And as I'm sure you know, there is a lot of lobbying going on by some of the industry in the United States to do that. But in the long term, that is going to be a significant opportunity, yes.

Robert Schwartz -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Great, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, sir.

Operator

And next we'll hear from Jeffrey Zekauskas of J.P. Morgan.

Jeff Zekauskas -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Thanks very much, good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Jeff, how are you doing?

Jeff Zekauskas -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Good. In the different slides, you spoke about merchant pricing being up 3% in the Americas, 3% in Asia, 4% in EMEA, but the actual price in the slides for each of the geographic segments is lower. It's 2% in the Americas, 1% in Asia and 2% in Europe. What accounts for the difference? What's pushing down that price level? And in the overall slide that describes price, it seems that costs are going up faster than price.

Is that the right comparison? Or is there a real price benefit and the costs are more internal or having to do with turnarounds or something like that?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I'll have Scott answer the question that you had asked. But on the cost side, the cost side is related to increasing our capabilities. But I like Scott to answer your first question. Go ahead, Scott.

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Jeff. Thanks for the question. So one of the things that we've introduced in the last quarter or so is a, we refer to it as a merchant-on-merchant price increase and price change. So as you know, Air Products has a large percentage of our portfolio, 50% in on-sites.

So when we go through the slides, we'll do price over the entire business, which two thirds or so in the U.S. is tonnage. So we felt [Inaudible] the 1% for AP and the 1% for Asia and then 2% for Americas and 2% for EMEA, that's over the total portfolio of those businesses. What we thought would be helpful is to also additionally provide you with a merchant on merchant that looks at the price change, in this case, increase, total Air Products 3%, Asia 3%, 4% and 4% for Americas/EMEA price increase on the merchant business.

So it provides you a little bit more insight as to what's going on, on that portion of the business as opposed to spread across the entire company. Hopefully I was clear on that.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Is that clear, Jeff?

Jeff Zekauskas -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Yes, that's clear. And then for my follow up, is it the case that your pension costs this year will drop about $65 million from $90 million to $25 million or so? And when I looked at your income statement, the non-controlling interest was $9.5 million I think versus $6.9 million last year. And I would have thought the non-controlling interest number would have been larger given that Lu'An is now on stream and is quite profitable. Is there something eccentric in non-controlling interest number? And what about...

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Jeff, Scott can address those things, we have talked about that. He has all of the regions.

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Hi, this is Scott. So first on pension. Well, you expect to have a little bit of a drop this year versus last year on pension.

Maybe for the year, total pension expense, and let me put it that way, maybe it's like 30 or so from an expense perspective. And by the way, no, Jeff, you're always interested in the cash flow statement. Our contributions for the pension should be in the same line. So we think non-cash expense versus contribution on the pensions to be about a wash and call it 30 and change.

Then in terms of non-controlling interest, you are right, Lu'An was the biggest part of it, recognizing that we had, I think it was in the third quarter of last year, we had a pure air adjustment that was a little bit of an anomaly because of the way that that arrangement was canceled. But I think going forward we would expect to see, by the way we also have a venture with a minority position over in Asia as well, so that's going to move around the non-controlling interest. But the biggest item in there is going to be Lu'An going forward.

Jeff Zekauskas -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Was pension expense $90 million last year?

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Give me a second. Including a bunch of the non-GAAP stuff that we had in there, I think it was up about that level. Now I'll keep my comments here around kind of the ongoing underlying to be was a little bit lower than that. And all in was something in that order.

Jeff Zekauskas -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

OK, great, thank you so much.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Jeff.

Operator

Next we'll hear from Vincent Andrews of Morgan Stanley.

Vincent Andrews -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you, and good morning everyone. If I could just ask on the price cost equation, as was mentioned before, you're down to sort of a negative $0.01 in the fiscal first quarter. Should we anticipate as we move through the balance of the year that price is going to exceed cost inflation? Or is it going to stay kind of the way things are?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

That is our goal, Vincent.

Vincent Andrews -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

You think you're going to achieve it?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

We always want to see a price increase and a cost increase. That is our goal, yes.

Vincent Andrews -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. And if I could ask you on the dividend, and I'll preface this by noting that you have almost a 3% yield in your dividend aristocrat, but the increase this year was a lot less than the last couple of years, and it's less than sort of the EPS growth that you're anticipating. So I'm just wondering if there's any particular reason the dividend increase wasn't larger.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we had promised the investors, and we keep our promise, that our dividend will the 2.5% to 3% of the stock price. And we right now increased the dividend to be at around 3%. So if next quarter the stock price goes up significantly, which obviously we hope so, then we will increase the dividend.

Vincent Andrews -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK, thank you very much.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Now that is the guiding principle.

Vincent Andrews -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK, that's very helpful. Thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Steve Byrne of Bank of America.

Steve Byrne -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Yes, thank you. Is it reasonable to assume that the incremental EBITDA margin on Lu'An is well above 50%? And would it have been even better if you had built the gasifier rather than buying it?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Steve, how do you want me to answer that question without giving a lot of information to our competitors, which is not necessary? Obviously you are very right, that EBITDA margin on that business is over 50%. Actually, a lot better than 50%, yes.

Steve Byrne -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

And, Seifi, what drives the attractiveness of the gasifier? That you have the intellectual property that gives you an edge?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Absolutely. The fact that we own the technology, we have inherited the people who know what the hell they are doing, and we were able to take over those gasifiers and run them very efficiently and more efficiently than they would otherwise run, and that is why the profitability is higher because we are creating value for our partners because we are running that plant very efficiently. And obviously as a result, we are seeing the good results.

Yes, owning the Shell technology is by far the biggest competitive advantage that we have. And also the GE technology. That is putting us in two advantages. No.

1, we know what we are doing; but No. 2, owning these technologies is giving us visibility to projects way before everybody knows about it. Because if somebody is thinking about a project 10 years from now, the first thing they do, as you know in the field of study and all of that, they select a technology. Therefore they talk to us there before they even have a project or announce a project or issue a request for quotation.

So we end up having a three-, four- or five-year head start on our competitors.

Steve Byrne -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

And this plant that was a forced shutdown in China by the government, should we assume that was an older plant that didn't have a take or pay contract?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

That plant that was shut down has nothing to do with gasification. As you know, it's a seed plant. It's a plant that we have been supplying oxygen to since 2005. That plant was in the middle of a city, so it is not a surprise that in time the city grows and therefore that plant either has to move or gets shut down.

So right now that plant has been shut down. We did have a take or pay contract on that, but the take or pay contract, obviously at the end of the day if the plant is shut down, it's force majeure and you have to deal with that. But that's not a material part of our business. And in the future, do we have other plants who are in the middle of cities that might be shut down? Smaller plants? That can happen too.

So it's not a big surprise...

Steve Byrne -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

OK, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure.

Operator

Next, we'll hear from Kevin McCarthy of Vertical Research Partners.

Kevin McCarthy -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Yes, good morning. Seifi, you indicated that you are very confident in your ability to deploy capital into high return projects. Can you elaborate on that? Is it the case that you've got such a target-rich environment that even if macro economics don't cooperate, you've got plenty to choose from on the menu? And then second, can you give us an update on the Yankuang gasification project and what the timing of that looks like these days?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Good morning, Kevin. Thank you very much for your good questions. No. 1, with respect to opportunities, the opportunities that we are working on, these gasification projects, they are not driven by the economy.

They are driven by the strategic decision by countries like China, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and all of these other places to become independent of oil. They had the cold resources and they want to convert that to chemicals. So as a result, the reason I'm very confident is because currently we are working on more than 52 of these projects. So if they all materialize, it would require $70 billion of investments.

So we have positioned ourselves properly. We have chosen the technology, we have the people and we are well positioned, and we have the cash to invest. And therefore, that is what makes me confident. And whatever happens to the economy, I think these countries will need to do these projects in order to become independent strategically from oil.

So with respect to the Yankuang project, that project is a huge project. It's about a $12 billion project. And we are working on that with Yankuang in trying to develop that. There are obviously environmental issues, investment issues and all of that, and we expect that project to be on a stream somewhere around 2022.

And we will give you an update as we go forward.

Kevin McCarthy -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

OK. And secondly if I may, can you talk about the modification of your contract in India? I imagine if you're moving to a tolling arrangement, we should expect your sales to decline and your margins to rise so that there's no net profit impact to your EMEA segment. I guess A, is that correct? And B, if possible, maybe you can comment on some of those effects in terms of magnitude?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, first of all, you are analyzing it absolutely correctly. When it becomes a tolling thing, then the price of natural gas is not put into our sales and therefore it will reduce our sales but improve our margin with no effect on the bottom line. The reason that that has happened is that our partner in India had found a way that if they do it that way, it is beneficial to them from a tax point of view. And obviously from our point of view, we still get the same DFC.

It doesn't change. But in terms of the optics for the results, you are right. It decreases sales and increases the margins. That OK?

Kevin McCarthy -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Yes, thank you so much.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

PJ Juvekar of Citi has our next question.

PJ Juvekar -- Citi -- Analyst

Yes, hi, good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, PJ, how are you?

PJ Juvekar -- Citi -- Analyst

Good. So, Seifi, you got good merchant-on-merchant pricing. Can you just review merchant utilization rates around the world? I think last year you had mentioned that China utilization was close to 90%. Is that still the case? And this good pricing that you saw, which end markets or which industries were you able to raise prices to?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

PJ, first of all, if I may just go around the world, China, if you take all of China, the utilization rate is only about 56%, 57%. But China is a very big country, there are pockets in China where our utilization is about 90%, 92%, and that is what is giving us the pricing power. Utilization rates in Europe are still at around 75%, 76%. And the same thing is in the United States.

But again, even in Europe or in the U.S., there are pockets as you know. Industrial gases, the merchant business is very, very local. So we can have a lot of capacity in California but no capacity in Pennsylvania. So we obviously analyze these things in detail and take action as appropriate.

With respect to the end markets, there is no specific end market that is driving this. It is just the utilization of the plant in the specific geography that you are located.

PJ Juvekar -- Citi -- Analyst

OK, thank you. And then secondly, Seifi, you haven't been buying back stock. And I know the preference is to invest in high-return projects. But why not buy back some stock, which gives you flexibility to take advantage of any market dislocation?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

We are not buying stock, and we don't plan to buy stock because we think if you do the math that you can do better than I do, if you have projects like Lu'An to invest, the return for the investors is a lot higher than us going and wasting that cash on giving money to a bunch of people who are going to go away and will not be a longer-term shareholder. So it is a very economic decision. I think people who buy stock are people who have run out of steam in terms of growth. And therefore, the only way that they can make shareholders happy is to announce stock buyback programs.

We have the opportunity to invest our money in projects that in the long term will generate and have a lot more value for our shareholders than buying back stock. And as you know, I'm a big shareholder, and I'm very passionate about this because I want to make more money in the long term, not to get cash this afternoon and then disappear.

PJ Juvekar -- Citi -- Analyst

Very interesting, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Next we'll hear from Duffy Fischer of Barclays.

Duffy Fischer -- Barclays -- Analyst

Yes, good morning, fellows. Question just on the wind. Now that it's up and running for three months, how is it running? No. 1, what lessons learned have you had from that? And then second one is just have you closed the GE deal yet?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

For your first question, I don't want to jinx ourselves so I'm going to be knocking on wood a little bit. The Lu'An project operation is going very well. All four gasifiers are running at capacity. Our customer has the need for the product.

Their business is doing very well. They are taking all of the syngas and converting it to chemicals and selling it and making money. So up to now, it has been very positive. I am very, very, very proud of our team down there.

We have something like 400 people working on this gasifier and running it every day, and we have, as I have always been telling investors, we know how to run process plants. If we run a hydrogen plant, we should be able to run a gasifier. But I have to say that the acquisition of the Shell technology and having those people on our team has significantly helped us to be able to do that. So from that point of view, we are doing very well.

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

GE, have we closed GE.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, with respect to the GE, we have closed the GE, yes. And we are in the process of...

Duffy Fischer -- Barclays -- Analyst

OK, great.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thank you very much.

Duffy Fischer -- Barclays -- Analyst

Yes, thank you guys.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Next we'll here from Jim Sheehan of SunTrust.

Jim Sheehan -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Thank you, good morning. What is your outlook for the LNG business in the second half of the year please?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Jim, as you know, our LNG business is the kind of business that you either get a big contract or you don't get a big contract. So I don't want to make too much of a prediction here, but the signs are positive. That means that it is possible that we would be awarded some additional contracts. And that is one of the reasons that maybe we are a little bit more optimistic about confirming our results.

But these things are not done until they are done. There are a lot of projects on the drawing board as you know. And if anything happens, we will obviously make an appropriate announcement. But I have to say that I'm more optimistic today than I was six months ago.

Jim Sheehan -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Great. And in your full-year guidance, what are you guys assuming for the corporate segment, please?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

In terms of what, Jim?

Jim Sheehan -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Yes, in terms of your incremental change from fiscal 2018 to 2019, just trying to get some color on how to model the corporate segment.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think that the corporate segment in terms of the cost of running the company on a day-to-day basis, our finance department, legal department, IT department and all of that, you know how we operate. You shouldn't expect much of a change there. I mean, that is going to be a steady with no significant increases. As far as any kind of plant sale that we might have, that would show up in that sector for our LNG business and all of that, I think for your model, assume flat.

And then anything that happens would be good news.

Jim Sheehan -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Thank you, Seifi.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from John Roberts of UBS.

John Roberts -- UBS -- Analyst

Thank you. Scott, for the $6.3 billion in commitments on Page 15, or the approximate $7 billion on Page 21, whichever one you want, could you remind us roughly of the pace at which the cash will go out the door against the commitment?

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, John, good morning. It's going to be coming in different methods so to speak, right? If it's an asset buyback, then that is going to come in a big check. If it's an organic project, these are large, particularly the gasification projects, the spending with curve can be three, four years. And so it will be lumpy so to speak, driven by the nature of the project itself, whether it's an asset purchase or an organic.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

But as a rule of thumb, I think you should assume this year we are saying we will spend about $2.5 billion. I think you should assume that in the next two years that number will go to about $3.5 billion every year.

John Roberts -- UBS -- Analyst

Thank you, that's helpful. And then on Slide 13, the $0.06 unfavorable cost, Scott talked about a lot of things like technology, engineering, business development. Is that primarily in the Americas gases segment or is a significant part of that over in global gases as well?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

It is cost increases as related to when we buy Shell technology, when we buy that technology, GE. We get a lot of people. We are pursuing, as I told you, more than 50 gasification projects. So that's another almost 100 people that you have to put in there in order to develop these projects.

Those are the costs. In terms of the section where you see that, Scott...

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

A lot of that will be in corporate and spread around, depending on the nature of these costs that we're building our capability. But, John, the other item is the maintenance, the planned customers outages. So that's in that number as well, and that's largely an America's comment with the planned [Inaudible] turns.

John Roberts -- UBS -- Analyst

OK, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

OK, thank you.

Operator

Next we'll hear from John McNulty of BMO Capital Markets.

John McNulty -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah, good morning, thanks for taking my question. Seifi, you highlight a big backlog, or at least potential backlog, on gasification projects. And I know in the past you've targeted 10% returns on capital. As you become more evidently the kind of partner of choice, you've got greater experience doing this, you've built up the technology, do you see risk to the upside in terms of how to think about the returns on capital for future projects? And how should we be thinking about that?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, John, we have said that our minimum requirement is 10%. But if we can't get a project at 25%, we will do that. So I think your analysis is exactly correct, that as we become the partner of choice we should be able to command a higher price. And obviously, the other dynamic is that if our competitors are announcing $6 billion share buyback, then I assume they don't have the money to compete in this project, which would put us in a better position.

John McNulty -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great, thanks very much for the color.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

David Begleiter of Deutsche Bank.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Thank you, good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning David, how are you?

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Well, thank you. Seifi, we just saw in the merchant price in the Americas, the plus 4%, are you seeing competitor support for the pricing? And has there been any impact from the Linde merger on pricing dynamics in the industry?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, first of all, the Linde merger is not closed, David, as you know. So there is certainly no impact from that. But as you know, in general, competitors' pricing and so on, I have my lawyer looking at me and saying don't say anything, considering the nature of the industry. So I apologize for not being able to comment on that.

I shouldn't comment on that.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Understood. And just on the guidance for the year, Seifi, what do you need to do or see happen to get to the upper half of the guidance range for this year?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I think what would help us is Lunar New Year shut down in China, which is normal rather than being longer; a stabilization of the discussions on Brexit; and making sure that our business in UK doesn't suffer; and a better, hopefully a few orders for the LNG. That would help too.

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Next we'll hear from Mike Sison of KeyBanc.

Mike Sison -- KeyBanc Capital Markets

Hey guys, nice quarter.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you very much, Mike.

Mike Sison -- KeyBanc Capital Markets

Seifi, you had mentioned that you feel confident Air Products can continue to grow at 10% annually for some time. And you've talked positively about gasification. Is there a way to help us understand what of that 10% how much gasification can support in terms of growth over the next couple of years?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, if all of the projects that we are talking, gasification actually materialize and we deploy the capital that we are talking about, we will grow a lot better than 10%. If we look at the conventional industrial gas business worldwide and consider that that business will grow with the GDP worldwide, therefore you can expect much more than 3% to 4% growth every year. So when we say 10%, we expect at least 6% from gasification and larger projects. But as I said, if we can actually implement and deploy the capital and have 10 more projects like Lu'An, then we will grow a lot better than 10%.

Mike Sison -- KeyBanc Capital Markets

Got it. And then as a quick follow up, if you had your choice, which you probably do and you think about the capital deployment, is it preferable to spend all the capital on gasification versus historical ASUs? And maybe talk about that concept going forward.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'm glad you asked the question. We remain totally committed to our core business. We are going to invest as much as we possibly can in our merchant business, in our standard gas generators, our hydrogen business and all of that. So the gasification is not taking anything away from that.

We will be as aggressive and as enthusiastic in investing in our core business. Gasification is on top of that. But gasification is not going to take away from our focus on our normal business. We are not going to concede any market share anywhere in the world in our [Inaudible] business, our helium business, our hydrogen business.

And we will invest in those businesses as appropriate. All we are saying is that those businesses fundamentally are not going to grow much better than GDP. And therefore, you need to have another vehicle in order to meet our ambitious goal of delivering more than 10%. And we have found that vehicle to be gasification and very large projects.

Mike Sison -- KeyBanc Capital Markets

Got it, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you very much.

Operator

Next we'll hear from Mike Harrison of Seaport Global Securities.

Mike Harrison -- Seaport Global Securites -- Analyst

Hi, good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Mike, how are you doing?

Mike Harrison -- Seaport Global Securites -- Analyst

Doing well, thank you. Seifi, we've talked a little bit about the merchant business, and you've talked a little bit about utilization. I was wondering if you can talk about your approach to merchant capacity in North America? We've seen you announce some merchant ASU in Ohio, New York, Minnesota. Any details on which end markets or customer dynamics are driving the need for more capacity? And what kind of utilization rates would you expect on those plants once they get up and running?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Mike, that's a very good cause. We remain committed, as we have always been, to make sure that our customers have access to competitive products. So the way we approach this thing is that, I mean, this is our business every day. When we look at an area and we see that we are operating at 90% and the market is growing, we obviously go on the mission plan in order to make sure we can supply the market.

And then when we see an area like in Minnesota, where there is really very few competitors competing in there and the market is growing, then it is appropriate for us to go and build a plan. So our approach is focused on meeting the demands of our customers and making sure they have access to products.

Mike Harrison -- Seaport Global Securites -- Analyst

All right. And then was also hoping to get an update on the helium market. I know that you recently announced an agreement with Sonatrach in Algeria. Any comments on the growth or pricing dynamics you're seeing in helium?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Helium is obviously a very rare commodity. There are not that many places where you can produce it. And we are the largest helium producer in the world, so we are very committed again to meet the demands of our customers. And therefore, we develop helium opportunities anywhere in the world that we can possibly do.

We have been operating in Algeria for many years, and we saw an opportunity to be able to expand on our operation there and to make helium available to our customers. We are very proud that right now, as we speak, we are the only helium producer in the world who has not declared force majeure. I think we are very committed in that we always make sure that we have supply for our customers. So the helium business is growing.

There is significant amount of rocket launches that require helium. There's significant amount of growth in medical use for MRI machines and all of that. And Air Products, as the leader of the helium business worldwide, is committed to make sure that we have product for our customers.

Mike Harrison -- Seaport Global Securites -- Analyst

All right, thanks very much.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Laurence Alexander of Jefferies has our next question.

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Good morning, just a quick one. Can you give a sense for how much your backlog has gone up, excluding the gasification projects given the number of announcements that were made during the quarter?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

During the quarter it hasn't gone up that much because we haven't announced too many projects. But overall, the backlog for our standard business is somewhere in the order of about $1.5 billion, and that hasn't changed significantly.

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies -- Analyst

OK. And for the commitments on the gasification side, are those at this point basically fixed, or will you have some wiggle room in terms of project financing and other ways to maybe reduce the capital investment or the capital outlay by our products for the States?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

We look at that issue on a project-by-project basis in terms of where it is and all of that. So as you know, when we announced the big project in Saudi Arabia, we said that that project is going to be order of magnitude more than $8 billion. And on that front, we are going to use 40% equity and 60% project financing. So it's very much driven by the specific project and the nature of the project.

But then it comes to a project like Jiutai in China, where the capital requirement is $700 million, we do that 100% corporate finance. It's very project-driven.

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank You. We have time for another question. We have significantly run over time, so can we have one other question, please?

Operator

Absolutely. Our final question for today will come from Jonas Oxgaard of Bernstein.

Jonas Oxgaard -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Morning, guys!

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, how are you?

Jonas Oxgaard -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Oh, living the dream everyday.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

That's great, that's great. That's a good positive attitude.

Jonas Oxgaard -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Thank you! So to go from that positive attitude to a less positive question perhaps, if we can return to that plant in China that you closed down and [Inaudible] take or pay was voided by a force majeure, in the past when you talked about the gasification plants and the potential risk of China closing down gasification because of coal usage, the answer has always been the take or pays are there to protect us. So was there something unique about this particular one? Or how should I think about this in the grander context?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I think you shouldn't. The two are not comparable. I mean, the reason that the plant, that Guang plant was shut down was because it was in the middle of the city. The city is growing, and obviously the sil plant is an [Inaudible] plant and it is not equipped with all of the latest technology, and they didn't have the money to do that, so the government shut them down.

The gasification plants that we are building are not in populated areas. They are significant projects, which are related to significant $10 billion, $12 billion investments for chemical production. And the possibility of those things being shut down for, they are actually being built because they are environmentally friendly. So there is really kind of no comparison between the two.

Jonas Oxgaard -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

OK, but if they were to be shut down, then the take or pays would be voided?

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, my friend, it's just like saying that if there is war in Venezuela, they come and take over your plants like it has happened to Exxon before. So those are the kind of things that... Force majeure works both ways because we want to be protected that in case the government, we have a plant supplying a sil plant and something goes wrong with our plan and they come and say you can't operate, we can't be liable to the customer to kind of supply them oxygen because we are under a force majeure situation. Or when an air compressor blows up in a plant, which we have had situations like that, we declare force majeure so that we don't get sued by the customer for not supplying them oxygen to run their, or hydrogen to run their refinery.

So that works both ways. That's kind of a standard in the contract.

Jonas Oxgaard -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

OK, thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. OK, with that, I would like to thank everybody for being on the call. Thanks for taking time from your very busy schedule. And we appreciate your interest in our company.

Thank you for the very good questions that allows us to kind of articulate our results. And we look forward to talking to you next quarter with hopefully better results. Thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 79 minutes

Call Participants:

Simon Moore -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Seifi Ghasemi -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Scott Crocco -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Don Carson -- Susquehanna Financial Group -- Analyst

Christopher Parkinson -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Robert Schwartz -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Jeff Zekauskas -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Vincent Andrews -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Steve Byrne -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Kevin McCarthy -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

PJ Juvekar -- Citi -- Analyst

Duffy Fischer -- Barclays -- Analyst

Jim Sheehan -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

John Roberts -- UBS -- Analyst

John McNulty -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

David Begleiter -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Mike Sison -- KeyBanc Capital Markets

Mike Harrison -- Seaport Global Securites -- Analyst

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Jonas Oxgaard -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

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