DuPont expects farm demand to boost quarterly profit
By Swetha Gopinath and Garima Goel
(Reuters) - DuPont (DD.N: Quote), the largest U.S. chemical maker by market value, said it expects earnings to more than double this quarter as its fast-growing agriculture business overcomes traditional seasonal weakness.
The company said it expects the business, which supplies farmers with seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, to report a small profit this quarter, its first positive fourth quarter in four years.
"The story is going to be all about agriculture," said Piper Jaffray analyst Mike Ritzenthaler.
The first half of the year is typically stronger for DuPont's agriculture business as farmers tend to buy seeds and pesticides for the spring planting season in the northern hemisphere.
DuPont said its fourth quarter is being helped by early shipments of seeds to North American farmers and strong demand in Latin America, where the planting season has just begun.
The growth in DuPont's solar panel parts and Kevlar body armor businesses, which helped it post a higher-than-expected profit in the third quarter, is also expected to continue.
Sales of a metal paste used in solar products rose 42 percent, while sales of Kevlar fiber, used in bullet-proof vests and made famous in Batman comics, shot up 70 percent.
However, sales at its performance chemicals unit, which houses its paint pigment business, fell in the quarter and is expected to continue to lag as high raw material costs and volatile prices more than offset higher sales volumes. Continued...