Dow Chemical (DOW) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter operating earnings and revenue Thursday and said it remains focused on the closing of its $130 billion merger with DuPont(DD) - Get Report

Operating earnings for the three months ended in December were 99 cents a share, the company said, well ahead of estimates of 88 cents, and up 6.45% from the same period last year. Headline results, however, indicated a quarterly loss of 3 cents a share. Revenue was $13 billion, up 14% from a year ago and ahead of the Wall Street consensus of $12.37 billion.

"We delivered record quarterly and full-year operating EBITDA and generated strong cash flow from operations of $1.9 billion in the quarter. And this year we returned nearly $3 billion to our owners through share repurchases and the highest annual dividend in our history," said CEO Andrew Liveris.

"For the year ahead, we remain squarely focused on three priorities: achieving our financial and operating plan; closing the DowDuPont transaction and driving quickly toward the intended spins; and capitalizing on our strategic growth projects," Liveris added. "We will continue to deliver strong financial performance for our customers and our shareholders."

DuPont cautioned Tuesday that the Dow Chemical merger, which would create the world's biggest agrochemicals company, would take longer than expected to conclude owing to regulatory approval delays, which the EU now hopes to address by March 14. The merger is now expected to close in the first half of 2017.

DuPont posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday but cautioned that its merger with Dow  would hit earnings in the first three months of the year.

DuPont said adjusted profit for the three months ended in December were 51 cents a share, compared to a loss of 26 cents a year earlier and well ahead of the Wall Street forecast of 41 cents. Revenue for the three-month period, however, slowed 2% to $5.2 billion owing to local price declines and lower volumes. Full-year sales, the company said, were also down 2% to $24.6 billion.

The company said it expects first-quarter sales this year to be largely flat from the same period a year ago, and cautioned that the agriculture sector remains "challenged."

Dow shares closed at $60.21 in New York on Wednesday, up 0.96%. The stock has gained 11.27% over the past three months, outpacing the 10.45% advance for the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the same period. Dupont closed at $76.67 after a 0.82% session gain.

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