By golly, I've found one: a major U.S. company that has increased its earnings from a year ago. Chemical giant DuPont
For the period, the company surprised us with an 11% year-on-year increase in its earnings. Those earnings grew to $409 million, or $0.45 per share, from $367 million, or $0.40 a share, for the same quarter of 2008, topping analysts' per-share expectations by a dozen cents! Sales, however, dipped 18% to $5.96 billion, from $7.30 billion last year. When comparing quarters, keep in mind last year's numbers included a $0.16-per-share hurricane-related charge.
DuPont suffered revenue reduction in all of its regions -- with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa leading the parade with a 27% drop. Nevertheless, only its Agriculture & Nutrition unit among its segments turned in a pre-tax operating loss. The negative $113 million grew from a negative $21 million in the third quarter of 2008.
Staying focused on pre-tax operating income, both Coatings & Color Technologies and Electronic & Communication Technologies were down by single digit percentages, but both were solidly positive. Performance Materials turned last year's $91 million pre-tax loss to a positive $230 million, yet it's only fair to point out that the earlier number included $216 million in hurricane-related charges. Finally, Safety & Protection dipped from $251 million to $93 million on lower demand and an impairment charge.
Were there any other things helping the quarter's earnings? Sure. Quite simply, as still-new CEO Ellen Kullman noted in the company's conference call, "we delivered $900 million in savings through the third quarter and are closing in on our $1 billion goal for the year. We remain vigilant about keeping about $750 million of these cost reductions out long term."
Looking ahead, the company revised its earnings outlook for this year to a range of $1.95 to $2.05 per share, a switch to the upper end of its earlier $1.70 to $2.10. So it appears early on that the chemical business may not have been blasted as badly as some other industries. In addition to Dow and Eastman, still waiting in the wings to report are the chemical likes of FMC
In the meantime, however, I'd urge my Foolish friends to consider pouring a beaker of DuPont shares into their portfolios.
Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies highlighted above. He does, however, encourage your comments. The Motley Fool has a chemically complicated disclosure policy.