DuPont off to a good start for 2012, CEO says

Thu Apr 19, 2012 11:33am EDT
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By Ernest Scheyder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - DuPont's (DD.N: Quote) first-quarter profit beat Wall Street's expectations, helped by price hikes and sales of insecticides and genetically modified seeds.

The company reaffirmed its 2012 earnings target for a range mostly above expectations, with Chief Executive Ellen Kullman saying specialized products for agricultural and electronics customers would provide much of the lift.

Results from DuPont often serve as a barometer for the global economy since its materials are used to produce a range of items, from cars and homes to televisions and smartphones.

"What you should take away from the first quarter is that we're off to a good start for the year," Kullman said on a conference call with analysts and reporters on Thursday. "We expected slow, sequential improvement and that is what we're seeing."

Wall Street mostly shrugged at the results because it was not as strong a beat as investors have come to expect from DuPont. The company's shares were down 0.4 percent at $53.04 in late-morning trading compared to a small rise in the broader markets.

First-quarter sales in Europe rose 14 percent, largely due to DuPont's 2011 purchase of Danish food ingredients maker Danisco. The buyout reflected Kullman's desire to increase DuPont's presence in the food market.

"We're seeing that many European markets remain weak. Europe is mainly in a recession with its sovereign debt issues," Kullman said. "There are a couple of bright spots, and one is agriculture."

Sales in Asia were flat, partly because of soft demand for titanium dioxide paint pigment from automobile manufacturers.   Continued...

A view of the Dupont logo on a sign at the Dupont Chestnut Run Plaza facility near Wilmington, Delaware, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer