With all that's been going on at Dow Chemical
It's been quite a quarter for Dow. The company completed its major acquisition of Rohm & Haas, which beefed up its balance sheet to near-gargantuan proportions. And in addition to reporting higher-than-expected earnings last week, Dow also announced that it just might sell its most profitable division.
Staying out of the red
Of course, Dow's earnings weren't even in the same league as its strong numbers from last year. But unlike so many industrial companies, such as closely watched equipment manufacturer Caterpillar
Even in a climate where demand for Dow's products has dived like a fish-chasing pelican, Dow managed to eke out earnings of $0.03 per share, compared to the $0.99 per share figure from a much rosier first quarter last year. Excluding restructuring and acquisition costs, earnings per share would have come in at $0.12.
Selling out of AgroSciences?
But the biggest news by far emerged from the company's conference call. For starters, CEO Andrew Liveris described Dow's asset divestment plan, which will help trim the balance sheet following the Rohm & Haas purchase. Mr. Liveris detailed a dozen potential divestments the company is considering -- the total value of which could add up to about $25 billion.
The most startling was the possible divestment of Dow AgroSciences, which posted record sales growth figures for the 11th quarter in a row. This isn't the first time such a sale has been discussed. In fact, a jettisoning of at least part of the unit was contemplated back when Dow was scrambling to raise acquisition funds for Rohm & Haas.
At that time, possible acquirers mentioned included Swiss crop sciences company Syngenta
Comments during the conference call suggested that the company's general business picture appears to be brightening. For instance, Pierre Brondeau, the CEO of Dow Advanced Materials, made several positive remarks about a number of the business units under his management. That's good news for this new segment, which will face the biggest challenges in integrating units acquired from Rohm & Haas.
So it looks like frantic action will continue at Dow for a while. So far, management has done a superb job with the Rohm acquisition, cobbling together the financing to make it work and identifying possible ways to subsequently trim the balance sheet. I hope my Foolish friends will be watching this solid company as raptly as I will.
For related Foolishness:
Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial interests in any of the stocks mentioned above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.