Severe winter weather dampens DuPont's farm sales

Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:58am EDT
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By Swetha Gopinath and Kanika Sikka

(Reuters) - DuPont (DD.N: Quote), which is making a big push into the agriculture market, reported a steeper-than-expected 3 percent fall in quarterly revenue as severe winter in North America delayed the planting of crops.

Sales in the agriculture business, DuPont's biggest, fell 6 percent, the first decline in ten quarters, due to lower demand for seeds and herbicides in North America and lower corn plantings in Brazil and North America.

"Impact of the weather pushed a lot of the agriculture demand out of the quarter and into the second quarter," SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst James Sheehan said.

Operating earnings fell 5 percent to $1.44 billion in the agriculture business.

DuPont, however, backed its full-year 2014 operating earnings of $4.20-$4.45 per share.

In the first quarter, operating earnings increased in five of DuPont's seven units, including industrial biosciences, nutrition & health and performance materials businesses.

As part of DuPont's strategy to move into less volatile businesses, the company is hiving off its performance chemicals unit, which has weighed on results since 2012 due to weak prices for a white pigment used in toothpastes, sunscreens and a host of other products.

Operating earnings in the business, which also makes materials used in non-stick cookware and refrigerants, fell 20 percent in the quarter.   Continued...

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