UPDATE 1-Huntsman beats estimates on higher demand for foam insulation
* Fourth-quarter revenue down 0.5 percent to $2.62 billion
* Adjusted EPS $0.24 vs est. $0.23
* Sees improvement in pigments in second half of 2013
Feb 12 (Reuters) - Chemical maker Huntsman Corp's quarterly profit scraped past Wall Street estimates as higher sales of polyurethane, used in foam insulation, offset weak demand for paint pigment.
Revenue in Huntsman's polyurethane business, its biggest, rose 13 percent in the fourth quarter on strong global demand that allowed the company to raise prices. The housing and automotive recovery in North America also helped boost demand.
The polyurethane business brought in nearly half of the revenue during the quarter and helped make up for a 28 percent fall in sales in Huntsman's pigments division, which makes titanium dioxide used in paints.
Titanium dioxide particles create the whiteness in paints and car coatings. The chemical is also used as a sunblock in skin cream and to take the shine out of synthetic fiber.
Rival DuPont, the world's largest titanium dioxide maker, said last month that weak demand for the pigment weighed on its fourth-quarter profit.
Prices for the pigment came under pressure last year as the plants idled in 2009 came back on line even as demand remained weak.
Earnings at the pigments division, which contributed nearly 11 percent of fourth-quarter revenue, are likely to improve in the second half of 2013, Chief Executive Peter Huntsman said in a statement.
Excluding one-time items, Huntsman earned 24 cents per share in the fourth quarter. Analysts were looking for 23 cents per share on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net sales fell marginally to $2.62 billion, but were above the $2.49 billion analysts were expecting.
Huntsman reported a net loss of $40 million, or 17 cents per share, due to restructuring costs and early extinguishment of debt.
The company posted a profit of $105 million, or 44 cents per share, a year earlier.
Huntsman shares, which have gained nearly a fifth this year, closed at $19.07 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.
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