DuPont Beats Lowered Estimates; Warns of Tough 2001

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DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

, America's largest chemical company, announced fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday of 47 cents a share, topping a lowered 46-cent consensus estimate by Wall Street analysts.

But that's really not the true barometer of DuPont's fourth quarter; a comparison to last year's 55-cents-a-share profit is. And that side-by-side comparison was not so good, with this year's quarter hurt by skyrocketing prices for raw materials, particularly all things petroleum-based. Fourth-quarter revenues dropped from $7.7 billion to this year's disappointing $6.26 billion.

Going forward, DuPont said the first half of 2001 would be difficult, as have most companies this earnings season. The same thing that affected this quarter, high fuel costs, will continue to plague the bottom line. The first quarter will be especially tough for DuPont, when declining demand will only be exacerbated by still-high costs.

DuPont said that revenues for its drug business will fall significantly in the first half of 2001. Additionally, it warned that its agricultural business would face some difficulties.

Not that these dark skies are anything new for chemical companies like DuPont. Lately, competitors

Union Carbide

(UK)

and

Lyondell Chemical

(LYO)

have also warned of a difficult next two quarters.