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DuPont says better volumes, margins contributed to increase in 4th-quarter earnings

DOVER, Del. - The DuPont Co. on Tuesday credited a gradually improving global economy for a sharp increase in its fourth-quarter profit, and the chemicals giant announced a new $5 billion share repurchase program.

DuPont's adjusted earnings beat Wall Street expectations, but revenue fell short. Its shares slipped in afternoon trading amid a broader market uptick.

The company pointed to volume growth and increased margins as well as a lower tax base in reporting fourth-quarter earnings of $185 million, or 20 cents per share, double the $92 million, or 9 cents per share, earned in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Its adjusted earnings per share 59 cents beat the 55 cents consensus estimate of Wall Street analysts surveyed by FactSet.

DuPont booked a pretax charge of $197 million for the settlement of damage claims related to its discontinued Imprelis weedkiller in the fourth quarter, bringing total Imprelis-related charges to about $1.2 billion. The company also reported a pretax charge of $129 million for employee separation and asset-related charges involving its electronics and communications segment and strategic decisions related to the thin film photovoltaic market.

Sales rose 6 per cent to $7.7 billion from $7.3 billion last year, slightly below the $7.8 billion analysts expected.

DuPont said volumes rose in all regions, including double-digit gains in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions. The volume gains offset lower local selling prices and negative currency effects.

DuPont's agriculture unit led performance with a 14 per cent increase in volume and sales growth of 18 per cent. The unit reported operating earnings of $88 million, reversing an operating loss of $77 million a year earlier. The company cited strong insecticide sales in Latin America and earlier seed shipments but noted that, because of the timing of seed shipments, significant operating earnings were realized in the fourth quarter of last year instead of the first quarter of this year.

For the full year, DuPont earned $4.8 billion, or $5.19 per share, on sales of about $35.7 billion, compared with 2012 net income of about $2.8 billion, or $2.91 per share, on sales of about $34.8 billion.

Looking ahead, the Wilmington, Del.-based chemical and biosciences company expects full-year 2014 operating earnings of $4.20 to $4.45 per share. Analysts expect $4.33 per share.

The $5 billion share repurchase program replaces an existing program. DuPont expects to repurchase $2 billion in shares this year.

Shares of DuPont are up 24 per cent over the past year, outperforming the benchmark S&P 500 index. In afternoon trading shares slipped 51 cents to $59.73.

The Canadian Press

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