Economy

Heavy winter storms weigh on DuPont during 1Q

DOVER, Del. (AP) — DuPont's agricultural sales suffered and its operating costs rose during extensive winter storms that dragged on first-quarter earnings, although volumes increased in the company's industrial segments and margins improved in almost every one of them.

The Wilmington, Del., chemical maker reported net income Thursday of $1.4 billion, or $1.54 per share, for the quarter ended March 31. That's down from $3.35 billion, or $3.58 per share, for the same quarter a year ago, which included a one-time gain from completion of the sale of DuPont's performance coatings unit.

Excluding one-time items, DuPont reported operating earnings of $1.58 per share, up from $1.56 per share on an adjusted basis in last year's first quarter, but slightly off the consensus Wall Street estimate of $1.59 per share.

Sales declined 3 percent to $10.1 billion for the quarter, mainly due to differences in timing and planted area for agriculture sales, negative currency impact, and adverse weather conditions in North America. Analysts were expecting revenue of $10.4 billion.

"We delivered near record earnings per share despite the challenges of harsh weather and differences in year-on-year comparisons in our agriculture segment, and our key initiatives remain on track," said CEO Ellen Kullman.

The company reaffirmed its outlook for full-year operating earnings of $4.20 to $4.45 per share, compared to $3.88 per share last year, based on anticipated growth in global industrial market demand. For the quarter, volumes declined in North America and Latin America, as operating earnings in the agricultural unit slid $74 million, or 5 percent. The company attributed the earnings drop to earlier timing of seed shipments realized in last year's fourth quarter, lower corn planted areas in Brazil and North America, and lower herbicide volumes in North America. Those declines were partially offset by pricing gains in seeds, higher insecticide volumes in Latin America, and lower seed input costs.

Shares of The DuPont Co. are trading near 15-year highs this month.

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