Ashland to sell water technologies business

Ashland to sell water technologies business; implementing restructuring program

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ashland said Tuesday that it is selling its water technologies business and implementing a restructuring program.

The chemicals company also reported that its fiscal fourth-quarter adjusted earnings from continuing operations topped Wall Street's expectations.

Ashland Inc.'s board began reviewing strategic options for the water technologies unit in late July. The company said it is now looking to sell the business and anticipates being able to announce a deal in 2014's first quarter. It expects to use net proceeds from the sale for a stock buyback.

Ashland said that the restructuring program should help streamline its operations and improve its competitive position. It anticipates the restructuring resulting in annualized cost savings of $150 million to $200 million. The program will start in fiscal 2014.

Ashland reported earnings of $5.15 per share for the period ended Sept. 30. That compares with a loss of $3.49 per share a year earlier. Earnings from continuing operations were $5.13 per share. A year earlier the company posted a loss from continuing operations of $3.47 per share.

Excluding a benefit of $3.98 per share for a pension-related gain and other items, earnings from continuing operations were $1.54 per share. That was down from $1.87 a share a year ago. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of $1.50 per share on that basis in the latest quarter.

CEO James O'Brien, however, said the results fell short of expectations due to a number of challenges. "Some of these issues were within our control, while others were tied to broader market or economic concerns," he said.

Shares of Ashland declined $5.19, or 5.2 percent, to $88.66.

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