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Dow Chemical's Nimble New Moves

By David Smith - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 8:06PM

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With its Kuwait venture saved and a solid acquisition, Dow is one to keep an eye on.

Sure, chemical company joint ventures might not suggest mind-blowing excitement. But after you take a look at the collaboration between Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) and Kuwait Petroleum, I think you'll see a pairing that could do nice things for your portfolio down the road.

The venture, dubbed K-Dow Petrochemicals, will have equal ownership for Dow and the Kuwait national company. But due to the currently declining world economic picture, Dow has agreed take $9 billion for its contribution of 15 production facilities located throughout the Americas and Europe. That's $500 million less than what Dow had originally hoped to get in the deal.

Of the $9 billion, Dow will get $7.5 billion directly from Kuwait Petroleum, with $1.5 billion coming from loans the venture will obtain. Dow will use its take from the deal to partially fund its $15.3 billion purchase of Rohm & Haas (NYSE:ROH), the Philadelphia-based manufacturer of coatings and electrical materials. The pair of transactions by Dow will permit the company to emphasize high-margin specialty chemicals while distancing itself from its less profitable basic chemicals business, while also benefiting its ability to tap feedstock provided by its new Middle East partner.

Like lots of businesses, the chemicals sector has been struggling of late. DuPont's (NYSE:DD) last quarter saw its year-over-year numbers slide substantially, while management has predicted numbers for the current quarter that likely will slide below half those of their 2007 counterpart.

In addition, Germany's big chemicals producer, BASF (OTC BB: BASFY.PK), is temporarily closing 80 plants globally and cutting its production by about a quarter. On the other hand, it appears that BASF will acquire Swiss chemicals maker Ciba Holding (OTC BB: CSBHY.PK).

As far as Dow's concerned, it's unlikely that its chemicals business will turn before we've moved well into 2009 -- at the very soonest. Nevertheless, it appears that, in the K-Dow venture and the Rohm & Haas acquisition, Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is positioning the company solidly for the day when we begin to see the first glimmer of an economic spring. For that reason alone, I'd suggest keeping Dow Chemical carefully targeted on your radar screen.

Dow Chemical rates the maximum five stars from Motley Fool CAPS players. Have you chimed in yet?

For related Foolishness:

BASF and Dow Chemical are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies listed above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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