DuPont earnings fall 70% on flat revenue, higher costs

Sales from Cedar Rapids DuPont Industrial Biosciences plant up 4 percent

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DuPont Co. on Tuesday posted a 70 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings on flat sales and higher costs that reduced profit margins.

For the quarter that ended on Dec. 31, DuPont reported net income of $111 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with $373 million, or 40 cents a share, in the same period last year. Total sales were roughly flat at $7.33 billion.

DuPont, corporate parent of DuPont Industrial Biosciences in Cedar Rapids and Pioneer Hi-Bred in Des Moines, recorded $66 million in restructuring charges and $135 million in customer-claims charges, up from $17 million and $100 million in the same period a year ago.

Gross margin narrowed to 18.3 percent from 19.3 percent. Total costs and expenses rose 2.8 percent.

The Dover, Dela., company's performance-materials segment posted a 5.2 percent decline in sales, while performance-chemicals sales were down 15 percent. Sales in the agricultural segment rose 18 percent to $1.5 billion.

Pioneer Hi-Bred seed sales increased from higher global volume and pricing gains in corn and soybeans.  Crop protection sales grew on strong demand for insecticides and herbicides in all regions.

DuPont Industrial Biosciences sales of $300 million were up 4 percent on higher volume and higher prices.

DuPont's results still beat the consensus estimate of Wall Street analysts of 7 cents per share on revenue of $7.2 billion. Its shares rose 53 cents to $47.52 in morning trading.

Ellen Kullman, DuPont chairwoman and CEO, said the company is stronger than it was a year ago, having posted a record year in new product introductions.

"However, weakness in markets served by performance chemicals and electronics and communications provided significant challenges in 2012," Kullman said. "We've adjusted our plans to meet the changing market environment and grow our businesses in a slow-growth world economy."

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