DuPont's Decline Was Patently Explainable

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Analysts spend lots of time during earnings season perusing releases and other indications of companies' performance. As such, the quality of communications provided by corporations is too often taken for granted.

It shouldn't be: For instance, chemical maker DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) benefits from its careful approach to walking analysts and shareholders through the quarter just past and providing a glimpse of the future. In its most recent quarter, the company saw its year-over-year net earnings drop by 11% to $367 million, or $0.40 per share, from $409 million, or $0.45 a share. Analysts had pegged a per-share number closer to $0.34, so DuPont at least exceeded consensus estimates.

The culprit in the earnings dip involved the expiration of a couple of patents in the company's pharmaceutical business. DuPont's Cozaar and Hyzaar both were the subjects of expiring patents during the quarter, a combination that shaved $0.13 from profits.

Nevertheless, all of DuPont's segments experienced year-on-year revenue gains to one degree or another. According to CFO Nicholas Fanandakis, in agricultural and nutrition, for instance, despite business divestitures in the segment, sales were up 2%, including market shares gains in both North American corn seed and soybeans. Conversely, Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) reported declines in its shares of both crops. Revenues grew 30% in electronics and communications and in safety and protection. Trailing right behind was performance chemicals, where segment revenues grew by 26%.

And as Fanandakis also noted during the call, "We are raising our (2010) guidance from a range of $2.90 to $3.05 per share to about $3.10 per share, excluding significant items ... This increase in guidance is based on strong performance year-to-date and confidence in our continued ability to deliver results as we finish the year."

At the same time, CEO Ellen Kullman said that, "(We are) constantly challenging our teams to be more responsive to local markets, particularly in the developing world. We continue to invest in our sales force, R&D centers, and application laboratories in critical growth markets around the world."

All in all, the chemicals industry has performed relatively well this earnings season. Sure, Ashland (NYSE: ASH  ) missed expectations by two cents, but Celanese (NYSE: CE  ) improved its sales by 15.5% and raised its 2010 earnings outlook. Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) and Eastman Chemical (NYSE: EMN  ) are both expected to report tomorrow, and both are anticipated to top year-on-year results nicely.

However, despite its explainable earnings slip, I continue to watch DuPont closely. I'm convinced that the company is well managed and that it will derive increasing value, especially from its agricultural successes.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial interests in any of the companies in this article. Monsanto is a former Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Monsanto. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2010, at 1:35 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    DuPont's customarily accountability-evasive execs seem to be blaming their embarrassing slide in year-over-year quarterly earnings on the expiry of drug patents in their phased-out DuPont Pharma "platform".

    BUT...DuPont Management has known for years, over a decade, their patents on Cozaar® and Hyzaar® would begin to expire this year. And they have done precious little to invest in new products and technologies to replace fully that LOSS, which ultimately will result in a yearly LOSS in PTOI of over $1 billion!


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