DuPont Sales Fall as Severe Weather Curbs Seed Buying

DuPont Co., the maker of Pioneer genetically modified corn, reported lower-than-expected first-quarter sales and earnings after North American farmers delay preparations for planting because of severe winter weather.

Revenue fell 2.7 percent to $10.1 billion, the Wilmington, Delaware-based company said in a statement today, missing the $10.4 billion average of 14 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Profit excluding some items was $1.58 a share, trailing the $1.59 average projection.

DuPont, the largest U.S. chemical maker by market value, warned last month that its earnings would be hurt by the unusually harsh winter as well as unrest in Ukraine. The company said today that corn plantings were also lower than expected in Brazil in the quarter. It maintained its full-year earnings outlook at $4.20 to $4.45 a share.

“It was 20 degrees yesterday in Minneapolis; you can’t plant corn when its 20 degrees,” Mark Gulley, a New York-based analyst at BGC Partners LP who recommends holding DuPont shares, said in a phone interview. “You’re going to get the rebound in sales in the second quarter because of the delayed planting season.”

DuPont fell 1.1 percent to $66.98 at the close in New York.

Net income declined to $1.44 billion, or $1.54 a share, from $3.35 billion, or $3.58, a year earlier.

Photovoltaic Demand

Operating income for DuPont’s agricultural segment, the company’s largest by revenue, fell 5 percent while its sales declined 6 percent. Three months ago, DuPont said the unit’s revenue would be essentially flat.

Earnings were up in five of the company’s seven divisions. The electronics and communications segment posted a 53 percent gain after demand climbed for photovoltaic products, Dupont said in a slide presentation. Profit climbed 37 percent at the industrial biosciences division, which makes enzymes used in the production of biofuels.

DuPont Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman came under pressure last year after activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management LP acquired a stake in the company.

In October, two month’s after Trian reported its holding, DuPont announced plans to spin off its performance chemicals business, the largest producer of titanium dioxide. DuPont said in January it planned to buy back $5 billion of its shares, including at least $2 billion this year.

DuPont, founded in 1802 to make gunpowder, produces thousands of products from Corian countertops to Tyvek weather barrier and Kevlar anti-ballistic fiber.

The cold has disrupted planting even as U.S. farmers plan to sow a record soybean crop this year as prices climb.

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