DuPont Co. continued its turnaround with a strong first quarter performance as business improved across all operating units and market regions. The company also increased its full-year earnings guidance as it reported earnings of about $1.14 billion, or $1.24 per share, for the quarter ended March 31, up from $488 million, or 54 cents per share, a year ago.
Revenue rose 23% to $8.48 billion from $6.87 billion, as DuPont benefited from volume gains, price increases and positive currency effects.
CEO Ellen Kullman said the first-quarter results reflect DuPont's efforts over the past year and a half to cut costs, respond to customer needs and focus on research and development.
Overall sales volume increased by 19%, led by a 65% volume increase in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Macro trends drove first-quarter demand for our science-based innovations, and DuPont was ready," Kullman said.
The company increased its full-year earnings guidance to a range of $2.50 to $2.70 per share, up from $2.15 to $2.45 per share.
For much of the past year, DuPont has relied on results from its agriculture and nutrition business while units that sold coatings and other products to the automotive and housing markets struggled during the recession. Those businesses saw strong gains in revenue and operating profit during the first quarter, even as the agriculture unit saw volumes increase a scant 1 percent. Officials said strong North American seed sales by the ag and nutrition unit were partly offset by delays in the European planting season.
DuPont's results started turning around in the fourth quarter of last year, when it swung to a $441 million profit from a $629 million loss in the final three months of 2008. As in the fourth quarter, DuPont's performance chemicals unit saw increased demand for titanium dioxide in the first three months of this year.
DuPont officials have said demand for products such as titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in consumer goods, house paint and automotive coatings, often indicates whether the economy is growing or contracting.
DuPont cited a recovery in the automotive and industrial markets, and moderate strengthening in construction markets, for improved performance in its safety and protection unit, whose products include Kevlar aramid fiber and Tyvek house wrap.
Performance among DuPont's various business segments was led by the electronics and communications unit, which reported a 60% increase in volume on strong global demand, led by the Asia-Pacific region, and increased demand for photovoltaics.
DuPont's performance materials unit saw volume increase by 56% as demand improved in the automotive, industrial, consumer and electronic markets.
DuPont said it expects to gain 1 or 2 points of global market share in crop seeds. Ortwerth said the company has been offering "cut-rate seeds at cut-rate prices" during a challenging growing season for farmers who have been unwilling to pay premium prices for seeds from rival Monsanto.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.