NEW YORK Chemical producer Huntsman Corp (HUN.N) posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit as it raised prices to offset increased raw material costs, sending its shares up 6.2 percent to a nearly three-year high.
The company, which makes the building blocks for auto paint, foam insulation and Spandex, said demand was strong, despite higher prices in four of its five business units.
Margins improved in only three units, though. The pigments unit saw margins jump the most -- 13 percentage points -- due to tight supplies of titanium dioxide, a key ingredient in auto paint.
"They did extremely well," Gleacher & Co analyst Edlain Rodriguez said. "Their facilities are running at full capacity. They're able to raise prices to offset costs and demand is extremely strong."
In a February interview with Reuters, Chief Executive Peter Huntsman warned that supply costs would jump in the first quarter.
"Demand for our largest businesses continues to improve with the global economic recovery," Huntsman said in a statement on Thursday.
(For a graphic on Huntsman, click on: r.reuters.com/sef49r.)
"We are raising prices and recapturing margin despite the headwind of increased raw material and energy costs."
For the first quarter, the company posted net income of $62 million, or 26 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $172 million, or 73 cents per share, in the year-ago period.
Excluding a charge to settle a legal dispute, a gain from currency transactions and other one-time items, Huntsman earned 47 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected 24 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 28 percent to $2.68 billion. Analysts expected $2.38 billion.
The company's cost of goods sold, a key measure of raw material prices, jumped 28 percent to $2.22 billion.
Sales dropped in the company's textile effects unit, which makes clothing dyes. Customers were not as willing to pay higher prices that stemmed in part from spiking cotton costs.
Huntsman is one of the world's largest producers of titanium dioxide, which is primarily used to make automobile paint. Last month, rival DuPont (DD.N) said a Chinese company stole its titanium dioxide trade secrets.
Huntsman shares were up 6.2 percent at $20.69 in afternoon trading after hitting a nearly three-year high of $20.95 earlier in the session.
Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China and brother of Huntsman Corp's chief executive, is considering a run for the White House.
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; editing by Maureen Bavdek, John Wallace and Andre Grenon)