Diversified chemicals manufacturer and Dow-30 component DuPont (DD – Free DuPont Stock Report) has reported results for the fourth quarter. The company posted sales and share earnings of $7.7 billion and $0.59, respectively. These figures roughly matched our expectations. Against the backdrop of a gradually improving global economy, the better performance was driven by greater volumes and increased productivity. This strength was fairly broad based. The reaction on Wall Street was muted, with DD stock moving just slightly lower on the news.
Operating earnings at the Agriculture business were $88 million, compared with a seasonal loss of $77 million in the year-earlier period. This improvement was driven by strong insecticide sales in Latin America and earlier-than-usual seed shipments. The Electronics & Communications line posted significant bottom-line growth, thanks to higher volumes in the photovoltaic markets and improved plant utilization.
Meanwhile, the Nutrition & Health segment benefited from increased demand in protein solutions, probiotics, and cultures. Elsewhere, the Safety & Protection business reported dramatic growth in operating earnings, due to greater volumes in industrial markets, continued productivity improvements, and better plant utilization. In addition, the Performance Materials line benefited from greater demand in packaging, automotive, and industrial markets, though this was partly offset by lower selling prices and higher raw materials costs. Operating earnings were 3% lower at the Performance Chemicals unit, owing to price declines for titanium dioxide and refrigerants, along with greater raw materials costs.
The company expects sales of about $37 billion for all of 2014 and share earnings between $4.20 and $4.45. We concur with these estimates, and our bottom-line call of $4.25 for 2014 is unchanged and within the aforementioned range. This assumes continuing improvement in global industrial production, lower agricultural input costs, and a slightly stronger average exchange rate for the U.S. dollar.
DuPont has separately announced a multiyear $5 billion stock-repurchase program. This initiative to reduce the share count ought to benefit earnings per share in the coming years.
This issue may appeal to conservative investors. The stock earns high marks for Safety and Price Stability, and the company is top-ranked for Financial Strength. The solid dividend yield may tempt income-seeking accounts. That said, as a diversified manufacturer of chemicals, the company remains vulnerable to weakness in the global economy. Should this materialize, possible weakness in the stock price would likely present patient investors with a more attractive entry point.
About The Company: Du Pont is engaged in science and technology in a range of disciplines, including high performance materials, electronics, safety and security, and biotechnology. The company operates on a global scale, manufacturing a wide range of products for distribution and sale to many different markets, including automotive, construction, agricultural, medical, protective apparel, electronics and nutrition.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.