updated 4/26/2005 7:52:21 AM ET 2005-04-26T11:52:21

DuPont Co., the nation’s third-largest chemical maker, said Tuesday that first-quarter earnings grew sharply from a year ago as improved margins offset increased energy and raw materials costs, but still missed Wall Street estimates.

Net income rose to $967 million, or 96 cents per share, for the quarter ended March 31 from $668 million, or 66 cents per share, a year ago. Total revenue fell to $7.83 billion from $8.21 billion in the first quarter of 2004.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to post earnings of $1.01 per share on sales of $7.71 billion in the latest quarter.

DuPont said local prices were 5 percent higher than the prior year, more than offsetting the negative impact of higher energy and ingredient costs.

DuPont reaffirmed its 2005 outlook for earnings per share of between $2.65 and $2.85, and its expectation that about 70 percent of full-year earnings will be realized in the first half. The company now expects current market trends for energy-related costs to increase raw material costs significantly more than previously expected.

Analysts are predicting full-year profit of $2.78 per share, on average.

Separately, the company announced that it raised its second-quarter common stock dividend by 6 percent to 37 cents per share.

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