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DuPont quarterly profit tumbles

/ Source: The Associated Press

Chemical maker DuPont Co. said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit dropped 45 percent and predicted that first-quarter earnings will also decline.

"We will continue to face challenging headwinds during 2006," Chairman and Chief Executive Charles O. Holliday Jr. said in a statement. Earlier this month, the company cut about half its fourth-quarter earnings outlook, citing hurricanes, plant outages, higher raw material costs and lower sales of crop protection products.

The company earned $153 million, or 16 cents per share, in the fourth quarter down from $278 million, or 28 cents per share. Excluding certain items, the company said it would have earned 13 cents per share. The adjusted figure is 3 cents higher than the 10 cents per share DuPont predicted on Jan. 11.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $6.24 billion from $6.03 billion. The company said sales volume declined 4 percent. Revenue from agriculture and nutrition products declined 6 percent to $900 million, and coatings and color revenue fell 4 percent to $1.5 billion.

Regionally, revenue fell 7 percent in Europe, increased 1 percent in the United States and rose 13 percent in the smaller markets of Canada and Latin America.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of 10 cents per share on revenue of $5.92 billion.

DuPont said first-quarter profit should come in around 70 cents a share, lower than the 96 cents per share in earned in the first three months of 2005 and below analysts current mean projection of 99 cents per share.

The company said the quarter will be hurt by lower sales of crop protection chemicals, heightened competition and a shift of certain seasonal revenue to the second quarter, along with continued costs from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and for energy and raw materials. DuPont's DeLisle titanium dioxide plant, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, will not reopen until April, the company said.

For 2006, DuPont predicted earnings of $2.60 per share. Analysts are looking for profit of $2.83 per share.

For all 2005, DuPont earned $2.05 billion, or $2.07 per share, on sales of $28.49 billion. Excluding items, DuPont would have earned $2.34 per share.