As you might expect, Wall Street minions are spending lots of their time these days trying to fathom what lies ahead for 2010. But there's still something to be gained from a 2009 look-back from the perspective of some of the more active companies during that time.
I'm hard-pressed to conjure up a company that turned in a more wild and wooly -- and ultimately successful -- year than did Dow Chemical
Consideration was given to a variety of alternatives, including the sale of DowAgroSciences, its highly successful agricultural unit. Possible buyers mentioned included Swiss crop sciences company Syngenta
In the end, Dow's bank lines and $7 billion in new preferred stock pushed the deal through. Since then, Dow has been humming along nicely. Equity offerings, along with non-core asset sales, have cleaned up the balance sheet somewhat, although with upward of $23 billion in postpurchase debt still lingering, there remains lots of work to be done.
When all is said and done, Dow appears likely to be one of the major chemicals beneficiaries of a strengthening economy, along with the likes of smaller Ashland
But while it's obvious that Dow is into chemicals, what does the company actually do?
The answer is that it's involved in an unimaginable array of goods, including technology that makes undrinkable water drinkable, along with strong and light carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics used in everything from aircraft to wind energy to sporting goods. And just last week it inked a deal with Syngenta granting Dow the license to a number of genetically modified cotton varieties.
To all this you'll need to add a solid management team that successfully navigated the Rohm and Haas financing adventure. Beyond that it's chopped costs materially and has involved the company in facilities worldwide, including a refinery in China and potentially a massive petrochemical project with Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia. Beyond that, its new structure, new products, and lower costs should benefit it nicely in 2010.
The result is a Dow Chemical that should capture Fools' investing attention for years to come.
Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. He does welcome your comments, criticisms, or questions. Monsanto is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Syngenta AG is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.