DuPont says Dow merger may get delayed

DuPont’s headquarters in Delaware. (

Reuters — DuPont raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast as it cuts costs ahead of its merger with Dow Chemical, but said the deal may not close by the end of this year as planned.

Shares of DuPont, which reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on lower expenses and higher sales volumes, were marginally lower at $69.81 in morning trading (all figures US$).

The $130 billion merger of Dow and DuPont is being scrutinized by regulators world over, with EU antitrust officials expected to decide the deal by Feb. 6.

“We continue to work constructively with regulators in key jurisdictions to close the merger as soon as possible,” CEO Ed Breen said in a statement.

“In the event that regulators in those jurisdictions use their full allotted time, closing would be expected to occur in the first quarter of 2017.”

DuPont and Dow plan to merge and then break up the combined company into three businesses focused on agriculture, material science and specialty products over 18 months after the deal closes.

The company, which is looking to cut $1 billion of costs by the end of this year on a run-rate basis, said operating costs declined by $235 million in the three months ended Sept. 30.

Strict cost control encouraged DuPont to forecast full-year operating earnings of $3.25 per share, higher than its previous estimate of $3.15-$3.20 per share.

Net sales rose marginally to $4.92 billion in the third quarter, aided by a 3 percent rise in sales volumes, helping the company top analysts’ average estimate of $4.87 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“This reinforces our view that Breen’s management is leading to top-line improvement, not just cost-cutting,” Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard wrote in a note.

Revenue in DuPont’s performance materials business rose 2.5 per cent — accounting for more than 27 per cent of the company’s total revenue — helped by increased demand in automotive markets.

Revenue in the agriculture business rose 2.4 per cent as higher volumes partially offset lower prices. The unit made up for 23 per cent of the company’s total revenue.

Net income attributable to DuPont shareholders slumped to $2 million, or breakeven on a per share basis, in the quarter, from $235 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding a $172 million net charge related to employee severance and asset writedowns, profit from continuing operations was 34 cents per share. That was much higher than the analysts’ average estimate of 21 cents per share.

Reporting for Reuters by Arathy S Nair in Bangalore.

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