DuPont Will Likely Be Down, but Not Out


You may know that giant agricultural products and chemicals manufacturer DuPont (NYS: DD) dates its formation to the Jefferson administration, when it set up shop in eastern Pennsylvania as a gunpowder manufacturer. Despite that heritage, however, the company is unlikely to shoot the lights out when it reports its earnings on Tuesday.

Analysts who follow the company currently expect its per-share earnings for the quarter to come in at about $0.47 per share, a nearly 32% drop from the $0.69 per share for the second quarter of 2011. Three months ago the Wall Streeters anticipated earnings for the third quarter of $0.70 a share. As time passed, however, that consensus expectation declined to $0.55 about a month ago, before being reduced to its current level.

The factors to watch
While the company will obviously provide far more specific information in its earnings release and on its call, it's nevertheless possible to wager some of the issues that might be responsible for the anticipated earnings decline. Obviously DuPont, like most international marketers, will be affected by the across-the-board global economic slowdown, as well as by a likely increase in its tax rate. In addition, it has faced higher energy and raw materials expenses vis-a-vis those of a year ago.

Despite its likely earnings dip, I continue to consider DuPont a solid, well-managed company. As is the case with Monsanto (NYS: MON) , which used to sport the slogan "Better living through chemistry," DuPont is making steady progress toward increasing the dominance of its agricultural and food-related operations. In May 2011, for instance, it paid $6.3 billion to acquire Danisco, a Copenhagen-based manufacturer of enzyme and specialty food ingredients.

Up to its neck in agriculture
In the second quarter of this year, the company's agricultural unit accounted for $3.4 billion of its $11 billion in total revenue. And thanks to the Danisco purchase, nutrition and health increased a whopping 82% year over year to $0.9 billion. Performance chemicals held onto second place among DuPont's segments, generating $2 billion in revenues for the quarter.

During the third quarter, the company continued to undergo a major alteration. In late August it was announced that The Carlyle Group (NAS: CG) , a global alternative asset manager would acquire DuPont Performance Coatings for $4.9 billion in cash. The unit is a significant factor in the worldwide manufacture of vehicle and industrial coatings. While the transaction is anticipated to be consummated in early 2013, the coatings unit and its 11,000 employees are expected to contribute about $4 billion to DuPont's revenues in 2012.

Perhaps because DuPont and the aforementioned Monsanto are becoming progressively more similar, the two have become involved in a skirmish in the U.S. courts. During the past summer, a U.S. District Court in St. Louis awarded the latter company $1 billion in damages in a suit involving its claim that DuPont had illegally infringed on its Roundup Ready soybean patent. DuPont's response to the judgment was that, "There were several fundamental errors in the case, which deprived the jury of important facts and arguments and leld to the disappointing outcome." DuPont further said that it "will appeal at the earliest possible opportunity and expects to overturn the verdict."

Solar strength
On another front, DuPont -- like Chevron (NYS: CVX) the second-largest U.S.-based integrated oil and gas company -- is involved in the manufacture and use of solar energy. Just last week, the company announced that it is "expanding its use of solar energy with the completion of a new 8-acre, 1.3 megawatt (MW) solar array at its Parlin, N.J., manufacturing facility." Further, according to the company, "this brings the total solar energy generated from the 10 existing DuPont solar installations to more than 3 MW, helping to further the company's aim to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels."

DuPont will be followed on the chemicals companies' earnings release stage on Thursday by Dow Chemical (NYS: DOW) . In the meantime, however, I'd urge Fools not to become forlorn over DuPont's likely earnings decline. As I indicated, the company remains solid. On that basis alone, it's a wise selection for inclusion on My Watchlist.

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