Dow Chemical (DOW) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter operating earnings and a firm rise in sales as it moves to complete its $130 billion merger with DuPont (DD) - Get Report

Dow said operating earnings for the first three months of the year rose 17% to $1.04 a share, well ahead of the 99 cent consensus complied by FactSet. Revenue for the three month period was $13.2 billion, the company said, ahead of the $12.45 billion forecast and up 23% from the year ago period.

"Dow's operational and financial results reflect the strength of our broad geographic footprint, robust consumer-driven demand aligned with our core material science markets and a focused productivity agenda," said CEO Andrew Liveris. "Our disciplined execution against our strategy continues to deliver a fundamental shift in our growth trajectory."

"We have now extended our streak of year-over-year operating EPS growth to 18 consecutive quarters and achieved 14 consecutive quarters of year-over-year volume gains," he added.

Agricultural sales, however, slipped 5% to $1.16 billion and operating earnings in the division fell 12.9% to $351 million. Equity losses for the segment were tabbed at $1 million compared to equity earnings of $7 million in the year-ago period, Dow said.

Earlier this week, DuPont said it expects to see first-half operating earnings rise 16% as it grows agricultural sales after reporting a stronger-than-expected first quarter bottom line of $1.64 a share, the company said, well ahead of the consensus forecast of $1.38 and up 28.1% from the same period last year. Revenue for the first quarter was $7.7 billion, DuPont said, ahead of the market forecast of $7.5 billion and a 5% increase from the first three months of last year.

Operating earnings in DuPont's agricultural portfolio, the company's biggest rose 12% to $1.236 billion on $3.928 billion in sales over the quarter with the unit seeing both sales volume and margin growth, DuPont said.

Dow Chemical shares closed at $64.33 in New York Wednesday after falling 0.74% on the session, trimming the year-to-date gain to 12.4% compared to a 6.65% gain for the S&P 500 benchmark.

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