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DuPont finance chief doesn't see recovery in 2009

DuPont likely won't bounce back from the economic slump this year, though it stands to benefit from a stimulus package under debate in Congress, the chemical maker's chief financial officer said Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

DuPont likely won't bounce back from the economic slump this year, though it stands to benefit from a stimulus package under debate in Congress, the chemical maker's chief financial officer said Tuesday.

"We're not immune from this recession," Jeffery Keefer said at the Barclays Industrial conference in Miami. "We do not expect recovery in 2009."

The Wilmington, Del.-based company, also known as EI DuPont de Nemours & Co., said last month it swung to a fourth-quarter loss as sales and volumes fell sharply.

Part of the loss was due to a restructuring plan, including more than 2,500 layoffs, announced late last year. Others in the sector, including Huntsman Corp., Dow Chemical Co., Rohm & Haas Co. and Ashland, have also announced layoffs in recent months in an attempt to cut costs.

DuPont earned $2 billion, or $2.20 per share, in 2008, down from $2.9 billion, or $3.22 per share, in 2007.

For 2009, the company expects to earn $2 to $2.50 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect, on average, earnings of $2.05 per share for the year.

DuPont is now working to conserve and generate cash, and maintain its balance sheet, Keefer said.

The company will slash capital spending and expenses this year, and focus on high-growth areas, including its agricultural and alternative energy businesses, he said.

Construction products — including its pavement materials and Tyvek home wrap — could see an uptick in sales if the final version of a stimulus package currently under debate in Congress is approved, Keefer said.

"We're well positioned to go through this economic recession," he said.

The company will return excess cash to shareholders "unless we have compelling growth opportunities," he said.

"We understand the dividend is the corner of our valuation," Keefer said. The dividend has been paid consecutively for more than 400 quarters,

Shares of DuPont fell $1.17, or 4.7 percent, to close Tuesday at $23.67. The stock has traded between $21.32 and $52.49 in the past 52 weeks.