DuPont Cuts Profit Forecast Amid Weaker Agriculture

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DuPont Lowers Dividend, Cuts 2015 Profit Forecast

DuPont Co. cut its full-year profit forecast to adjust for the spinoff of its performance chemicals unit and the impact of lower crop prices, which are causing farmers to spend less on the company’s pesticides and seeds.

Operating earnings will be $3.10 a share in 2015, down from a prior prediction of $4, Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont said Tuesday in a statement.

While most of the change is due to the July 1 spinoff of Chemours Co., DuPont said about 10 cents is attributable to weaker expectations for agriculture. DuPont also reported second-quarter earnings and sales that trailed analysts’ estimates.

The Chemours spinoff allows DuPont Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman to focus on more profitable businesses such as seeds and pesticides, her company’s largest segment by revenue. Still, earnings at the unit fell 6.9 percent in the second quarter. Sales dropped 11 percent on lower demand for soybeans, corn and pesticides, and because of the stronger dollar. Profit was also down at four of the company’s six other businesses.

“Although all segments were light, the biggest variance from consensus was in agriculture,” Chris Shaw, a New York-based analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. who rates the shares hold, said Tuesday in a note. “We believe conditions will remain weak for that business through at least the end of 2015 and at this point wouldn’t expect much rebound in 2016.”

Agriculture Loss

For the third quarter, seasonally the weakest three months for the agricultural business, DuPont expects a loss widening to about $225 million from $55 million on reduced corn plantings and a slow start to the Latin American growing season.

DuPont’s earnings report is the first since Kullman defeated activist investor Trian Fund Management’s attempt in May to gain four board seats. Trian, DuPont’s fifth-biggest shareholder, has called for deep cost cuts and a potential breakup of the company, a strategy Kullman has criticized as costly and high risk. The investor hasn’t ruled out another proxy fight.

Kullman, meanwhile, plans to cut expenses this year and intends to use a $4 billion dividend from Chemours to buy back shares over 18 months. DuPont said Tuesday it will complete $2 billion of accelerated stock repurchases by the year-end.

DuPont fell 1.5 percent to $55.90 in New York.

Dividend Payments

Second-quarter net income dropped to $1.03 a share from $1.15 a year earlier. Profit excluding some items was $1.18 a share, trailing the $1.21 average of 15 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell to $8.6 billion from $9.71 billion, missing the $8.98 billion average estimate.

DuPont also cut the third-quarter dividend payment by 11 cents, to 38 cents a share. Kullman in April said the reduction would be made up by payments from Chemours. Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., UBS AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. say Chemours’s initial quarterly dividend of 55 cents will need to be cut.

Chemours, the world’s largest producer of titanium dioxide, said in a statement Tuesday that prices for the pigment used in paint continued to decline in the second quarter amid “continued challenging market conditions.”

Kullman on a conference call Tuesday said DuPont’s board and management would have a chance to evaluate any reduction in Chemours shareholder payments.

“We recognize the importance of the dividend to our owners and understand the concern about the combined aggregate dividend given the current market conditions for Chemours,” she said.

Investors got one share of Chemours for every five of DuPont they owned.

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