UPDATE 2-Dow Chemical raises asset sale target by $1.5 bln-$2 bln

Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:03pm EDT

* Aims to raise $4.5 bln-$6 bln from asset sales by 2015-end

* Sees EBITDA in agriculture unit doubling to about $2 bln in 5-7 years (Adds analyst comments; updates shares)

By Swetha Gopinath

March 19 (Reuters) - Dow Chemical Co said it aimed to raise up to $6 billion from asset sales, $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion more than its earlier target, to focus on electronics, agriculture and packaging.

Dow Chemical is under pressure from hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb's Third Point LLC to spin off its lucrative but slow-growing petrochemical unit and focus on specialty materials, but the company is reluctant to split the two businesses.

The company has repeatedly defended its strategy of using its commoditized raw materials businesses to keep costs down at its high-growth specialty chemicals businesses.

"Dow appears committed to deliver more value than activist investor Third Point's split-up proposal, which Dow opposes," said UBS Investment Research analyst John Roberts.

"Dow indicates a split could destroy about $1.5 billion to $2 billion of integration value," he said.

Dow Chemical, which said in October that it would sell its epoxy business and some chlorine and derivatives assets, said on Wednesday it also planned to sell some non-core operations.

The company did not specify which assets, but said they would likely be from its functional materials and performance materials businesses - two of its slowest-growing operations.

Dow Chemical said it was also reviewing joint ventures for potential divestiture.

"Dow has 86 JVs, most of which are small but collectively could provide meaningful proceeds," Roberts said.

The company, which is seeking to lower its exposure to volatile commodity prices, aims to complete the sale of assets by the end of 2015.

"There are markets where we are minor ... We are de-selecting markets and de-selecting small business," Chief Executive Andrew Liveris said on a call to update shareholders on the company's strategy. (r.reuters.com/pag77v)

"You can expect that these businesses are small, have good EBITDA but where, frankly, we cannot grow," Liveris said from Saudi Arabia.

Dow Chemical, like rival DuPont, is looking to increase sales of seeds and pesticides, and has said its genetically altered "Enlist" corn and soybean would be key to driving profits in its agricultural sciences business.

The company said it expected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the unit to double to $2 billion in five to seven years.

Dow Chemical will provide an update on Sadara Chemical Co, its joint venture with Saudi Arabian Oil Co, on Thursday.

Sadara is slated to start production at a $19.3 billion complex in Saudi Arabia in the second half of 2015.

Dow Chemical's shares were up about 1 percent at $50.20 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The stock has gained nearly 13 percent this year, while DuPont's shares have risen 3 percent. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Kirti Pandey)

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