Dow 30 component and chemical giant DuPont
With such a profound initiative being rolled out -- gleaned perhaps from the slides for Business 101 -- you might overlook Tuesday's other significant press release: its third-quarter results. Ah, but I won't.
On the back of a 5% sales gain (compared with 2004's third quarter), earnings per share increased 32% (excluding a one-time charge for repatriating dollars and a gain on asset sales). The big news was that price increases of 4% more than offset higher energy and ingredient costs. To quote a common phrase, DuPont has pricing power.
The results are impressive in that Hurricane Katrina trimmed sales by about $100 million and cut pretax operating income to the tune of $50 million. The market liked the news, and so do I; the stock is up almost 4% in afternoon trading.
DuPont's outlook for the fourth quarter, though, will suffer from continuing problems related to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A large titanium dioxide plant will not begin operation until late December, and an ethylene copolymers and intermediates plant will not reach full capacity until year's end. As a result of these and other mentioned concerns, earnings are expected to be $0.20 to $0.25 a share, down from $0.39 in last year's fourth quarter.
The company's other press release, which will be formally presented to shareholders on Nov. 7, frames the business problems this way: "Hurricanes Katrina and Rita accelerated what we believe is a structural shift in input costs that will affect the competitiveness of industries we serve." So, hurricanes have fundamentally changed DuPont's competitive environment in such a way that it needs to speed up strategies of "putting science to work, going where the growth is, and driving productivity." Say what?
What has happened is that DuPont has reached the same conclusion Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation DowChemical
DuPont is also announcing a $5 billion share repurchase program. That makes sense for two reasons, First, the stock recently fell to levels it hadn't reached in 2 ½ years. At 14.2 times expected 2006 earnings, the stock is not exactly pricey. Second, the company has a trailing 22.6% return on equity. That's a strong number, even if some North American chemical operations are losing their competitive edge -- although DuPont is more than just chemicals.
The bottom line is that DuPont released a double dose of good news Tuesday. The company is clearly saying that it wants to accelerate its growth and profitability, and that is good news for long-term investors.
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