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DuPont CEO says merger with Dow still on track

July 27, 2016
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

The planned merger of DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. remains on track to close by the end of this year, DuPont’s chief executive said, as the companies negotiate with antitrust authorities overseeing major global markets.

Dow and DuPont have outlined potential remedies to European Union antitrust officials, while competition authorities in the U.S., China and Brazil also scrutinize the deal, DuPont CEO Ed Breen said Tuesday.

“We always expected a very thorough review because of the size” of the deal, Mr. Breen said in an interview. “We planned to close before the end of the year and still think we’re on that timeline.”

The blockbuster merger, agreed in December, would create a company with a combined market cap of about $122 billion before splitting it up into three separate entities focused on plastics and chemicals, agricultural seeds and pesticides, and specialty products like food ingredients and safety equipment. The merger of two stalwarts of U.S. industry is among the most ambitious in a wave of deals sweeping the agricultural and chemical sectors, driven partly by sliding commodity markets.

Though the companies directly compete in some businesses like crop seeds, pesticides and building products, DuPont and Dow have said their respective operations don’t overlap much.

DuPont reported Tuesday that second-quarter profits climbed 8.4% as sales of its corn seeds, probiotics and auto-parts components climbed, helping offset continued weakness in farmers’ spending on seeds and sprays. DuPont shares climbed 1% to $69.58 as the company lifted its outlook for full-year profits, and projected a smaller hit to profits from foreign currency shifts.

Last week, Dow and DuPont shareholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the merger plan. Mr. Breen said on a Tuesday conference call discussing DuPont’s earnings that the board of directors for the combined company will be named before the merger deal closes. “We’re pretty far down the road on who those candidates will be,” he said.

DuPont and Dow on July 20 submitted commitments to the EU’s antitrust division outlining steps the companies are willing to take to secure approval for their deal, according to a filing on the European Commission’s website. The U.S. Department of Justice in March requested more information about the merger plan. Mr. Breen said in the interview that the companies currently are in “deep conversation” with antitrust agencies but declined to discuss any potential remedies or divestitures offered.

Upon the merger’s completion, which Mr. Breen said he anticipates sometime in November, DowDuPont will likely face continued challenges across its major business lines. Low crop prices are expected to keep weighing on farm income, barring a significant shift in crop demand or bad weather that dents yields, DuPont executives told investors on Tuesday’s conference call. Slowing global economic expansion has challenged industrial companies, along with the strengthening U.S. dollar, which has made U.S. products and commodities less competitive versus international rivals’.

DuPont now sees some currency pressures easing, however, and on Tuesday trimmed to 15 cents a share its estimate for foreign exchange-related impact to 2016 operating earnings. DuPont in January had estimated a 30-cent hit.

For the second quarter, DuPont earned $1.02 billion, or $1.16 a share, compared with $940 million, or $1.03 a share, a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast operating income of $1.10 a share.

While overall sales fell 0.8% in the quarter because of lower prices and foreign-exchange shifts, volumes climbed about 2%. Farmers ramped up purchases of DuPont’s new corn seed varieties and auto makers in the U.S. and China stepped up materials orders, helping to balance out slower soybean seed sales.

The company boosted the low end of its outlook for per-share earnings this year to a range of $3.15 to $3.20 on an adjusted basis, comp

By Jacob Bunge

Source: Wall Street Journal

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