BUSINESS

DuPont reports small decline in 4Q earnings on higher costs

01/24/2012 07:51 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT
DOVER, Del. - The DuPont Co. said Tuesday that fourth-quarter income dipped slightly as volume declines and cost increases offset sales gains and higher prices.

The company reported net income for the quarter of $373 million, or 40 cents per share, compared with $376 million, or 40 cents per share, in the previous year's fourth quarter. DuPont attributed the results to broad-based volume declines, a higher tax rate, and higher costs for raw materials, which offset higher selling prices in all regions and a 14 per cent increase in revenue.

Excluding one-time items, earnings per share were 35 cents, down from 50 cents per share in the corresponding quarter of 2010. That topped analysts' expectations for earnings of 33 cents per share, according to FactSet.

For the full year, DuPont said higher selling prices and acquisitions in health and nutrition and industrial biosciences helped lead to record earnings. The Wilmington, Del.-based science company reported full-year earnings of about $3.5 billion, or $3.68 per share, compared with $3.05 billion, or $3.28 per share, for the previous year.

Last month, DuPont cut its 2011 earnings forecast due to weaker demand in several sectors, including electronics and industrial supplies, predicting an adjusted 2011 profit of $3.87 to $3.95 per share, down 10 cents from its October guidance and below what analysts had expected.

DuPont reaffirmed its previous guidance for earnings to increase by 12 per cent this year, to a range of between $4.20 and $4.40 per share.

"We delivered exceptional full-year results in 2011 despite significant market headwinds late in the year," said DuPont chairwoman and CEO Ellen Kullman. "... We remain well-positioned to serve customers and innovate as key markets rebound and global population growth drives new opportunities."

In the fourth quarter, however, DuPont saw volumes decline in all regions, led by a 23 per cent drop in the Asia-Pacific region. The company said the volume declines were driven by destocking in photovoltaics, polymer and industrial supply chains, and weaker demand for products used in consumer electronics and construction.

In DuPont's electronics and communications unit, revenue fell 18 per cent, and volumes declined by 33 per cent. Volumes were down 17 per cent in performance chemicals and 13 per cent in performance materials.

DuPont said sales in its nutrition and health unit were up $468 million to $806 million, reflecting last year's acquisition of Danish company Danisco's specialty food ingredients business.

The agriculture unit led all DuPont business segments in full-year volume performance with an increase of 10 per cent. Double-digit sales growth in many other units was largely attributable to higher selling prices.