DuPont Reports Mixed Results, Hikes Dividend
Chemicals manufacturer DuPont & Co. (NYSE: DD – $70.69) reported its first-quarter results with sales of $9.2 billion, down 9% from a year earlier, due to unfavorable currency movements and changes to the portfolio. Industrywide challenges experienced by the Agriculture and Performance Chemicals businesses also contributed. Cost reductions supported the bottom line, and share earnings of $1.34 came in shy of the $1.58 generated in the first quarter of 2014, but two cents above analysts’ estimates. Performance across business lines was mixed. The Agricultural line benefited from an improved merchandise mix in Pioneer products and pricing actions taken in parts of Europe and Asia, though this was more than offset by lower volumes from an expected reduction in global corn planted area, a decline in insecticide demand in Latin America, and the timing of seed shipments. Meanwhile, results at the Performance Chemicals business were hurt by lower prices and volumes for titanium dioxide. Elsewhere, operating earnings declined modestly at the Nutrition & Health segment, as volume gains and an improved product mix were more than offset by the negative impact of the stronger U.S. dollar. The Electronics & Communications business reported solid growth in operating earnings, driven by increased demand in consumer electronics. At the Performance Materials line, ethylene volume growth and an improved sales mix more than offset lower ethylene prices. The Safety & Protection business benefited from volume growth from global industrial markets and strong public sector demand in Europe. The separation of the Performance Chemicals business remains on track for the middle of the current year. The company now expects to be at the low-end of the previously communicated outlook range of $4.00-$4.20 operating earnings per share for the remainder of the year. And finally, the Board approved a 4% dividend hike from $1.88 per year to $1.96, yielding 2.7%. The shares remain a solid income holding.