DuPont Posts Lower Profits

Chemical giant DuPont Co. (DD) on Tuesday said first-quarter profits slipped, as soft industrial demand offset strong sales of early-season agricultural products and cost savings from job cuts.

For at least 12 months the chemical industry has suffered from slumping sales and sluggish manufacturing demand for its products, which are used in everything from carpets to airplanes.

DuPont cautioned a "significant" period of demand growth is needed to absorb capacity before pricing strengthens in the manufacturing sector. Even so, it said it expected business conditions in the United States and possibly Europe to improve.

The Wilmington, Delaware-based company posted net income of $479 million, or 48 cents a share, down from $495 million, or 46 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. Profit per share rose as the average number of shares outstanding decreased 4 percent.

Excluding items, the company recorded a profit of $552 million, or 55 cents a share, compared with $567 million, or 54 cents, in the year-ago quarter.

On that basis. analysts on average had expected a first-quarter profit of 56 cents a share, with estimates ranging from 53 cents a share to 60 cents a share, according to tracking firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

Consolidated sales in the first quarter fell to $6.14 billion from $6.86 billion with sales declining in all businesses except agricultural products.

The warm winter -- one of the warmest in the last 100 years in much of the United States -- boosted agricultural sales as farmers started planting earlier than usual, analysts said.

The company got a lift from higher sales of crop-protection chemicals and corn and soybean seeds at its Pioneer hi-Bred International unit, the world's largest seed company.

Sales of agricultural products are not expected to be as strong in the second-half of the year, analysts said.

DuPont's fixed costs have fallen across the board, but the biggest saving has come from 5,500 job cuts, or 6 percent of its global work force, since last April, the company said earlier this month.