first-quarter earnings fell 15% from a year ago as sales were flat and costs expanded. Excluding items, DuPont easily beat analyst estimates and trounced the forecast it offered to Wall Street just one month ago.
DuPont earned $817 million, or 88 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $967 million, or 96 cents a share, a year ago. Adjusted for a restructuring charge and a tax gain, DuPont earned 93 cents a share in the latest quarter, beating the Thomson First Call consensus estimate by 13 cents a share.
On March 25, DuPont said growing strength in a number of portfolio businesses would push earnings to 80 cents a share, nine cents above the then-current Thomson First Call forecast. The March 25 estimate came about two months after the company pegged quarterly earnings at 70 cents a share.
First-quarter sales were little changed at $7.39 billion, missing the consensus estimate of $7.69 billion. The quarter saw a 2% rise in unit volume, including a 1% gain in the U.S. Europe posted a "modest decline," the company said.
"We knew it would be a difficult operating environment in the first quarter, and I am very encouraged by the better than expected performance of our company," said Charles O. Holliday Jr., the CEO. "I am especially pleased with how our people delivered these results. We are fully committed to growing revenue, controlling costs and improving return on assets across all of our businesses."
DuPont put second-quarter earnings at 90 cents a share and said full-year earnings should be $2.85 a share, excluding items. Analysts were forecasting $1.06 a share in the quarter and $2.73 a share in the year.
In the second quarter, DuPont said "continued pricing strength, volume and fixed cost control will offset higher energy and ingredient costs and competitive pressures in its production agriculture businesses."
Regarding the full year, DuPont said, "We are raising our full-year earnings outlook in light of first quarter performance and the progress we have made in successfully implementing initiatives to accelerate shareholder value. We are building on the positive momentum achieved in the first quarter, taking the necessary measures in underperforming businesses, and accelerating execution to deliver on our commitments."