* First-qtr operating profit $1.58/share, in line with
* Operating earnings in agriculture business fall 5 pct
* Total revenue down 3 pct at $10.13 bln vs est. $10.45 bln
(Adds outlook, investor and CEO comments; updates shares)
By Swetha Gopinath and Kanika Sikka
April 17 Chemicals maker DuPont expects
its agriculture business to grow this quarter as farmers buy
seeds and insecticides after a delayed start to planting season
in North America, which hurt the company's revenue in the first
Shares of DuPont, a Dow 30 component, were down about 1
percent at $67.19 in late morning trading on the New York Stock
Exchange on Thursday.
DuPont said it expected "modest" growth in sales and
"significant" growth in operating earnings in its agriculture
business in the current quarter.
Sales in the agriculture business, DuPont's biggest, fell 6
percent, the first decline in 10 quarters, as farmers put off
purchases due to a colder-than-usual winter.
"Impact of the weather pushed a lot of the agriculture
demand out of the quarter and into the second quarter," SunTrust
Robinson Humphrey analyst James Sheehan said.
DuPont's operating earnings fell 5 percent to $1.44 billion
in the agriculture business.
Farmers' plans to sow more soybean than corn this year is
also hurting DuPont as corn is more profitable for the company
and corn plantings need more pesticides.
DuPont said lower-than-expected corn plantings in Brazil,
North America and Ukraine would likely hurt its farm unit in the
first half of the year.
However, Chief Executive Ellen Kullman told reporters on a
call that the company's "growth fundamentals in agriculture
continue to be excellent both in the United States and on a
DuPont reaffirmed its 2014 operating earnings forecast of
$4.20-$4.45 per share.
"I think the theme is an ongoing recovery in most of
DuPont's end markets, lean corporate management, and new
products and solutions driving sales," said Eric Linser of
Avant-Garde Advisors, a wealth management firm that owns DuPont
First-quarter operating earnings rose in five of DuPont's
seven units, including in industrial biosciences, nutrition and
health and performance materials businesses.
As part of a strategy to move into less volatile businesses,
the company is hiving off its performance chemicals unit, which
has weighed on results since 2012 due to weak prices for a white
pigment used in toothpastes, sunscreens and other products.
Operating earnings in the business, which also makes
materials used in non-stick cookware and refrigerants, fell 20
percent in the quarter.
Analysts speculate that the planned sale of DuPont's
performance chemicals unit was at the behest of Nelson Peltz,
whose Trian Fund Management disclosed a stake in the company
Peltz called DuPont's stock undervalued, but did not spell
out how he seeks to increase value. DuPont unveiled a $5 billion
share repurchase program earlier this year.
A number of chemical companies, including Dow Chemical Co
, have come under investor pressure to separate less
stable businesses and raise shareholder returns.
Hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb's Third Point LLC has urged Dow
Chemical to spin off its lucrative but slow-growing
petrochemical units and focus on specialty materials.
Smaller rival Chemtura Corp said on Thursday that
it would sell its agrichemicals business to Platform Specialty
Products Corp for about $1 billion to focus on specialty
Net income attributable to DuPont dropped to $1.44 billion,
or $1.54 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from
$3.35 billion, or $3.58 per share, a year earlier.
DuPont's net income plunged as the company sold its
performance coating business, which added almost $2 billion to
earnings in the year-earlier quarter, to Carlyle Group in
Operating earnings were $1.58 per share, in line with
analysts' estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell nearly 3 percent to $10.13 billion, missing the
average analyst estimate of $10.45 billion.
(Editing by Don Sebastian and Kirti Pandey)