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DuPont earnings fall on weak volumes

Randall Chase, AP Business Writer

In this Feb. 16, 2011 photo, a construction worker uses Dupont Tyvek Home Wrap at a housing complex in Palo Alto, Calif. The DuPont Co. reported a 3 percent decline in second-quarter earnings Tuesday, July 24, 2012, as volumes were off in several business units and the company saw weakness in the market for a key product, titanium dioxide, particularly in Europe and Asia. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- The DuPont Co.'s net income fell 3 percent in the second quarter as sales volumes fell in several business units, including performance chemicals, electronics, and safety and protection, and it absorbed charges for claims over a weed killer and a legal settlement.

Revenue rose 7 percent but fell short of Wall Street's expectations.

The company said it expects its earnings for the year to be at the low end of its current outlook in part because of uncertainty about the macroeconomic outlook.

"I think the wild card is just the global economy and what happens in Europe and what goes on in the next quarter or two," said Edward Jones analyst Jeff Windau.

DuPont's shares closed down 97 cents, or 2 percent, at $47.74.

The Wilmington, Del.-based company said net income totaled $1.18 billion, or $1.25 per share, for the three months ending June 30, down from $1.22 billion, or $1.29 per share, for the same period last year.

Excluding one-time items, earnings came to $1.48 per share, which beat Wall Street estimates of $1.46 per share, according to a survey by FactSet.

The company took a pretax charge of $265 million in the quarter related to claims involving the use of its Imprelis weed killer, and a $137 million pretax charge related to the settlement of a lawsuit with Invista, a privately held company that bought much of DuPont's textiles and interiors business several years ago.

Revenue totaled $11 billion, up from $10.26 billion for the second quarter of 2011 but below analysts' expectations of about $11.27 billion. The increase was attributed to 6 percent higher local prices and a 5 percent increase from portfolio changes, partially offset by a 3 percent currency headwind and 1 percent lower volume.

Volume declines in certain business segments were offset by continued strong performance in agriculture, where sales increased 13 percent to $3.4 billion, reflecting 7 percent price and 6 percent volume gains. Sales were up 12 percent in the Pioneer seed unit, with strong performance in North America corn and soybeans. Crop protection sales increased 15 percent.

DuPont also saw big gains in the industrial biosciences and nutrition and health units related to its acquisition of the enzyme and specialty food ingredients businesses of Danisco.

"Our agriculture, food and bioscience businesses are performing exceptionally well globally, and our advanced materials businesses are achieving solid results despite slower growth in some key markets and continued weakness in Europe," said DuPont CEO and chairwoman Ellen Kullman.

Sales were down 2 percent in Europe, Middle East and Africa, as volume in the region dropped 8 percent.

Volume was down 10 percent in the second quarter in the performance chemicals unit, reflecting continued softness in demand for titanium dioxide, or TiO2, a whitening pigment used in wide range of products, from automotive and house paints to toothpaste.

Despite short-term weakness in demand for TiO2, Kullman told analysts the overall fundamentals in the market are "robust." She said recent comments in the media about the outlook for titanium dioxide overstated softness in the market.

DuPont chief financial officer Nick Fanandakis said the company was still "very bullish" on the mid- and long-term prospects for titanium dioxide, a key profit producer for the company.

Sales in the electronics and communications unit were down 11 percent on 6 percent lower volume and 5 percent lower selling prices as DuPont saw continued soft demand for photovoltaic materials. Volume decline in photovoltaics was partially offset by increased demand for smartphones and tablets, the company said.

DuPont's safety and protection unit saw a 4 percent drop in sales, with 5 percent lower volume partially offset by 1 percent higher selling prices. The company said volume declined because of lower public sector demand for products such as Kevlar body armor and continued softness in industrial markets.

DuPont maintained its earnings outlook for the year of $4.20 to $4.40 per share, excluding unusual items. But the company said Tuesday that it expects full-year earnings to be near the lower end of that range because of uncertainties regarding macroeconomic conditions and a higher tax rate related to its earnings mix.