DuPont Co. (NYSE:DD), the largest U.S. chemical company by market value, reported first-quarter profit gain that surpassed analysts' estimates as sales of new seed and crop protection products rose. The company increased its dividend by 5 percent.
Net income for the quarter that ended March 31 climbed to $3.35 billion, or $3.58 a share, from $1.49 billion, or $1.58 a share, in the year-earlier period, the Wilmington, Delaware-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. Excluding one-time items, the company reported a profit of $1.56 a share, topping the $1.52 average estimate of 19 analysts.
First-quarter sales rose 2 percent to $10.4 billion from $10.2 billion. Sales gains were driven by strong volume growth, particularly in North America and Latin America, and higher pricing from new seed and crop protection products.
The company said first-quarter results had been driven by record agriculture operating earnings offset by an expected decline in performance chemicals. Operating earnings rose 13 percent to an all-time high of $1.5 billion.
"The first quarter finished as expected, with the strong Agriculture performance and Performance Chemicals' decline from peak levels last year," CEO Ellen Kullman said in the statement.
The shares edged up 0.7 percent in premarket trading in New York on Monday, set to extend gains for a third day. The stock gained 12.1 percent this year, outperforming the S&P 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) which has gained 9.6 percent.
Looking ahead, the company maintained its projection for full-year 2013 operating earnings of $3.85-$4.05 a share, an increase of 2-7 percent from $3.77 a share earned in 2012. Analysts, on average, expect a 2013 full-year profit of $3.89 a share.
For the first-half of this year, the company expects operating earnings per share to be about 7-9 percent lower than the first half of 2012, on lower performance chemicals earnings.
DuPont also increased its quarterly cash dividend by 5 percent to 45 cents a share, payable June 12 to stockholders of record May 15. "This is the 435th consecutive quarterly dividend since the company's first dividend in the fourth quarter of 1904," the company, founded in 1802, said in a separate statement.
"Our strategies for growth and improved return on capital are working as we continue to focus on delivering science-powered innovation and industry-leading productivity improvement," the company said, citing Kullman.