DowDuPont Inc.  posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Thursday but a decline in materials science division sales kept revenue growth flat from the same period last year.

DowDuPont said earnings for the three months ending in December came in at 88 cents per share, up 6% from the same period last year and just ahead of the consensus forecast of 87 cents. Group revenues were flat from last year at $20.1 billion and just shy of the Street estimate as materials and science sales fell 1% to $11.8 billion.

DowDuPont also said it sees net sales falling by a mid-single-digit percentage in the first quarter of this year, with declines in agriculture and specialty products. Operating earnings in the group's material science division is also expected to be notably lower over the first quarter.

"We remain on track for the separation of the new Dow on April 1, followed by Corteva from the new DuPont on June 1. We are excited about launching these three global companies, each set to be an industry leader with the right capital structure and now better positioned to serve customers, compete in their end markets and focus on their innovation priorities," said CEO Ed Breen. "We've also put in place strong leadership teams who are singularly focused on capitalizing on their competitive advantages and delivering on their substantial growth and cost synergy opportunities to create value both now and over the long-term."

DowDuPont shares were down 8.2% to $54.40 on Thursday.

"We expect global economic expansion to continue in 2019 at a moderately slower pace than 2018," said CFO Howard Ungerleider. "We continue to closely monitor macroeconomic and geopolitical developments, including ongoing trade negotiations and the pace of economic activity in China.

"In this environment, we remain focused on the actions in our control, including capitalizing on our growth investments, capturing cost synergy savings, delivering productivity actions and advancing our spin milestones," Ungerleider added.

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