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Dow Chemical's Kuwait Deal Goes Kaboom

By David Smith - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 7:53PM

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Will Dow Chemical continue to chase Rohm & Haas after its Kuwait deal fizzles?

It must be especially disheartening to be jilted during the holiday season. That's likely the prevailing feeling in Midland, Mich., headquarters of Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), which has been left standing at the proverbial altar following the cancellation of its planned $17.4 billion joint venture arrangement with Kuwait Petroleum Corp.

Under the terms of the venture, which was to be called K-Dow Petrochemicals and was expected to become official at the beginning of 2009, Dow was set to contribute 15 production facilities throughout the Americas and Europe. In exchange, it would have received $9 billion. Dow's take from the deal would then have been applied to its planned $15.3 billion buyout of Rohm & Haas (NYSE:ROH), the Philadelphia-based manufacturer of coatings and electrical materials.

But now, with Kuwait's government having decided to pull out of the joint venture to shield itself from the increasing effects of the global financial crisis and sliding oil prices, Dow's acquisition of Rohm & Hass suddenly is in doubt. Indeed, while the Philadelphia company asserted on Sunday that its deal with Dow is still on, I'm forced to believe that, if the acquisition does go forward, it'll be at a price substantially below the originally agreed-to $78 for each Rohm & Hass share. At midday on Monday, Rohm's shares were trading down 15%, near $53.

The disintegration of Dow's Kuwait joint venture occurs amid substantial cost-cutting efforts by the company's management. Earlier this month, it was announced that Dow would cut 5,000 jobs and shutter 20 plants, while also temporarily closing an additional 180 plants and furloughing 6,000 contract workers. The resulting savings are expected to reach $700 million a year by 2010.

As you know, because you're a Fool and keep up with these things, Dow isn't the only major U.S.-based company pulling in its horns these days. Its chemicals manufacturing cousin DuPont (NYSE:DD) saw its numbers slide significantly during the most recent quarter; equipment manufacturer Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) just announced a major cost-cutting squeeze; and global delivery company FedEx (NYSE:FDX) is in the process of pruning.

But what should we do about investments in Dow during this period of uncertainty? On the one hand, I continue to be impressed by management's efforts to cut costs and streamline the company's operations. Nevertheless, given our current topsy-turvy market and the new uncertainty surrounding the Rohm & Hass addition, I'd allow some of the dust that's blowing about the company to settle before putting my rubles into its shares.

Motley Fool CAPS players continue to accord Dow Chemical five stars out of five. Does that rating include your vote?

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FedEx is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Dow Chemical is an Income Investor pick. 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 mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions and comments. The Fool has a carefully constructed disclosure policy.

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