DuPont's

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hurricane-soaked fourth quarter topped analysts' estimate Tuesday, but the chemical giant guided expectations down for the current period.

DuPont earned $153 million, or 16 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, down 45% from $278 million, or 28 cents a share, a year ago. The company

previously warned that the impact of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina would weigh on the fourth quarter of 2005 as various business lines struggled to restore output.

Excluding a tax-related item, DuPont earned 13 cents a share in the most recent quarter, beating the Thomson First Call consensus estimate by 3 cents a share. Fourth-quarter sales fell 3% from last year to $5.83 billion, missing estimates for $5.92 billion.

Affecting the fourth quarter was a $350 million rise in raw-materials costs, which was roughly 75% offset by local prices increases of 5%, and a 4% decline in total worldwide volume. Volume would have been flat excluding the impact of the hurricanes.

DuPont had grim guidance for the first quarter, pegging earnings at 70 cents a share. Analysts were forecasting 99 cents a share.

"Results for the Agriculture & Nutrition segment are forecast to be below last year's first quarter based on an expectation of lower volumes in crop protection chemicals, competitive pressures, and a shift in seasonal revenues between the first and second quarters," it said.

"Results of the Performance Materials and Coatings & Color Technologies segments will continue to be significantly impacted by the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The company's DeLisle titanium dioxide plant, damaged by Hurricane Katrina, is not expected to resume full operations until April of 2006. In addition, historically high energy and ingredient costs will continue to constrain earnings in these segments."

DuPont shares closed at $39.55 Monday and recently crossed at $38.61 on Instinet.