DuPont Trims Outlook on Agricultural Weakness

Dow Jones Newswires

DuPont Co. on Tuesday trimmed its earnings outlook for the year, as weak demand for crop protection and lower corn and soybean volumes weigh on its agricultural business. DuPont is now forecasting operating earnings of $3.90 a share, down 10 cents from its previous forecast, which included its recently spun-off performance chemicals division. The maker of Pioneer corn seeds has been hit recently by the strengthening U.S. dollar and low crop prices, as well as weakness in some chemical prices. DuPont is rolling out new and better products to help combat the foreign-exchange challenges, while hastening already-planned cut costs. In January, the company boosted cost-cut targets and said it would reach its goal of slashing $1 billion in costs by the end of 2015, ahead of schedule, as it faced pressure from activist investor Trian Fund Management LP. In the latest quarter, cost cuts added 10 cents to per-share operating earnings. In all, DuPont reported a profit of $940 million, or $1.03 a share, down from $1.07 billion, or $1.15 a share, a year earlier. Excluding special items, operating earnings ticked up to $1.18 a share from $1.17 a share a year ago. DuPont's total revenue fell 12% to $8.88 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a profit of $1.18 a share and revenue of $8.75 billion. The U.S. dollar's strength against other currencies has made DuPont's seeds, crop sprays and chemical products more expensive for overseas buyers. Currency impacts brought down sales by 5% in the quarter. Agricultural sales fell 11% to $3.22 billion, while operating profit in the segment fell to $778 million from $836 million a year earlier. DuPont earlier this month completed the spinoff of Chemours Co., previously DuPont's performance chemicals division that made paint pigments and nonstick coatings for frying pans. DuPont said it now plans to purchase and retire $2 billion in stock by the end of the year.

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