Despite a year of extreme disruption from war in Europe and hot inflation, shares of leading industrial gases company Linde (LIN 0.76%) are back at record highs. A recent jump in stock price was driven by exceptional quarterly earnings to close out 2022. 

At this juncture, Linde carries a premium stock price -- and for good reason. It's benefiting from a renewed global focus on infrastructure investment, like electronics manufacturing and renewable energy production. The company is growing its earnings, and has a long track record of raising its dividend payout for shareholders. Is Linde stock a buy for 2023?  

A new project highlights long-term secular growth trends

The world under-invested in hard assets and infrastructure over the last decade. It took a global pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine to expose these fragile supply chains. Suddenly, there's a renewed interest in investing in energy and manufacturing, which plays into Linde's hand.

Early in February 2023, Linde announced a big new project on the U.S. Gulf Coast with nitrogen fertilizer supplier OCI. Linde will invest $1.8 billion in an on-site facility that will supply "clean hydrogen" and other gases to OCI, and extend its industrial gases supply to other companies in the Southeast U.S. This large commitment increased Linde's backlog of work by $2.4 billion, to a total of $9.2 billion, during the final three months of 2022.

Linde is getting boosts from other areas of the global economy too. The U.S. CHIPS Act passed over the summer of 2022 is aimed at increasing semiconductor manufacturing in the country. Similar legislation is being worked on elsewhere -- like in Europe, which wants to grow from just a single-digit-percentage share of global chip production to a 20% share this decade. Linde reported that electronics manufacturers were its fastest-growing segment last year, increasing 21% year over year in the fourth quarter.

Big boosts to profitability

Linde's Q4 2022 revenue was down 5% year over year to $7.9 billion, hurt as it was most of the year from the closure of its Russia business and from a record run-up in the U.S. dollar (a side effect from the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes).  

In spite of the headwinds, though, earnings per share (EPS) jumped 35% in Q4 (or up 14% on an adjusted basis). On the earnings call, CEO Sanjiv Lamba said: 

Overall, 2022 was another stellar year despite the many headwinds. We achieved new highs across several key financial metrics while relentlessly focusing on our core values. This is the fourth year in a row of double-digit EPS growth, and I see no reason why this won't continue. Stated simply, I have confidence that we will deliver strong results irrespective of economic and geopolitical climate. From my vantage point, I've never been more confident about Linde's future.  

Encouraging words indeed. To reinforce the growing importance of Linde's operations in the global industrial space, management forecasted adjusted EPS growth of 9% to 12% when excluding currency exchange headwinds for 2023.

Is this dividend stock a buy?

After its final financial update for 2022, Linde stock currently trades for 42 times trailing 12-month EPS (or 30 times trailing 12-month free cash flow), but just 24 times EPS on a one-year-forward expected basis. In other words, Linde trades for a premium.  

However, the premium could be well-deserved, especially given the secular growth trends working in Linde's favor. There's also that long dividend-increase history that makes this stock a great long-term investment.

Chart showing rise in Linde's dividends paid since 2000.

Data by YCharts.

Personally, I'm not interested in chasing this stock just yet. I see better deals out there if you believe manufacturing and renewable energy will be a high-growth space for the next five to 10 years. But definitely give Linde a look. This top industrial gases business is worth putting on a dollar-cost average plan for investors looking for growth and income for the long term.