* 2016 revenue from continuing operations flat
* Operating profit up 3 percent
* Healthcare sales up 4 percent, engineering down 9 percent (Adds details on units, CEO quote, Praxair comparison)
MUNICH, Germany, March 9 (Reuters) - German industrial gases group Linde said its planned merger with U.S. rival Praxair was on track, with the two parties still aiming to finalise an agreement on combining their businesses by the end of April or beginning of May.
Linde reported flat 2016 revenue of 16.9 billion euros ($17.8 billion) and 3 percent higher operating profit of 4.1 billion euros from continuing operations - within its forecast range - excluding logistics unit Gist, which it plans to sell.
Results reported on Thursday were lifted by U.S. healthcare unit Lincare, compensating for another difficult year for the plant-engineering business, which has been hit by investment caution due to persistently low oil and gas prices.
The Munich-based group said it aimed to increase 2017 revenue by 3 percent, although it could see a decrease of up to 3 percent due to a “challenging market environment”. It aims for flat to 7 percent higher operating profit helped by cost cuts.
“Our efforts to make Linde even more profitable are already having an impact,” Chief Executive Aldo Belloni said in a statement. “We will be able to operate even more successfully in the market in the future.”
Praxair is almost twice as profitable as Linde, while the German company is seen as the technology leader.
$1 = 0.9493 euros Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Maria Sheahan