By Ernest Scheyder
NEW YORK (Reuters) - DuPont's <DD.N> profit rose 27 percent to trounce Wall Street's expectations, fueled largely by sales to farmers and solar panel makers, and the chemical giant raised its earnings forecast.
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The company, which plans to buy Danish food additives maker Danisco for $5.9 billion, is a Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> component. Its products, which also include the iconic Kevlar bulletproof vests and Tyvek homewrap, touch nearly every sector, from construction to agriculture and clothing.
Latin American sales posted the biggest sales percentage jump by region-- 30 percent -- and sales to electronics and communications customers rose 29 percent.
DuPont earned $1.43 billion, or $1.52 per share, in the first quarter, up from $1.13 billion, or $1.24 per share, a year earlier.
The results eclipsed the $1.36 per share analysts had been expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 18 percent to $10 billion. Analysts expected $9.19 billion.
Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman said earnings growth and increased productivity "support our confidence in raising our full-year earnings outlook."
DuPont raised its 2011 earnings forecast to a range of $3.65 to $3.85 per share. The Delaware-based company had previously forecast $3.45 to $3.75 per share, and Wall Street expects $3.71.
DuPont provided no update on its offer to buy Danisco.
The current tender offer for the Danish company expires at the end of the month, and DuPont has yet to get more than 10 percent of Danisco shareholders to agree to the deal.
DuPont's offer represented a 25 percent premium to Danisco's stock price just before it was announced in January.
If a deal closes, nearly half of DuPont's revenue will come from food-related businesses. The company expects the acquisition to dent 2011 earnings by 30 cents to 45 cents per share.
China, where Danisco has several assets, approved the deal earlier this month. This was the last regulatory approval needed before shareholders can vote.
DuPont finance chief Nick Fanandakis told Reuters last week that he was "confident" the deal will be approved before the end of April.
If a success, the buyout will define Kullman's legacy at the company, much the way predecessor's Charlie Holliday's acquisition of seed maker Pioneer defined him.
Kullman's two-year track record at DuPont has thus far been marked by success. Her deft handling of the company's finances during the recession earned her a 15 percent base salary raise in 2010 to $1.3 million.
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Derek Caney)