NEW YORK - Airgas Inc is not yet out of the woods brought on by the recession, the specialty gases supplier's chief executive said on Friday.

While the company, whose gases are used in refrigeration, construction and other markets, expects fiscal 2010 profit to slide about 12 percent even though it has been aggressively cutting costs and acquiring small competitors to add market share.

We've seen some recent activity that is cause for optimism, but we're not out of the woods yet, Peter McCausland told Reuters.

McCausland, 59, founded Radnor, Pennsylvania-based Airgas in 1982.

Some company watchers are nervous, in an era of corporate malfeasance and impropriety, about him sharing the chairman and CEO roles.

McCausland brushed off those concerns, saying splitting the two roles is the dumbest idea he's ever heard.

Separating the two would slow the company down, he said. I don't see where the shareholders would get any more protection or attention or respect.

And, he noted, I run a company that's never abused its shareholders.

Shares of Airgas fell 48 cents to $47.54 early Friday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded between $26.29 and $51.88 in the past 52 weeks.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Richard Chang)