DuPont posts suprise sales drop on prices, currency

MOSCOW (MRC) -- DuPont Co., the chemicals company facing a proxy contest with activist shareholder Trian Fund Management LP, posted an unexpected drop in fourth-quarter sales and forecast 2015 earnings that trailed analysts’ estimates, said Bloomberg.

Revenue fell to USD7.38 billion from USD7.75 billion, Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont said in a statement Tuesday, compared with the USD7.79 billion average of 12 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Profit excluding some items was 71 cents a share, matching the average estimate.

Average prices fell in every business segment, led by an 8 percent decline in the agriculture business, where lower grain prices reduced farmer spending on corn seeds in Brazil. Foreign exchange reduced companywide sales by 3 percent, DuPont said.

Agriculture companies "continue to be negatively impacted by falling corn prices in the fourth quarter," David Begleiter, a New York-based analyst at Deutsche Bank AG who recommends buying the shares, said in a Jan. 16 note.

For 2015, the company said operating earnings will be as much as USD4.20 a share, trailing the USD4.44 average estimate. Profit this year will be cut by 60 cents a share because of the impact of the stronger dollar, it said.

The company also said it’s expanding its cost-cutting plan to USD1.3 billion by the end of 2017. It previosuly sought USD1 billion of savings through 2019. Dividends received by DuPont from Chemours, the performance-chemicals business it plans to spin off later this year, will be returned to shareholders via stock buybacks. The proceeds will be about USD4 billion, DuPont said.

The weaker-than-expected quarterly sales and 2015 forecast may hurt efforts by DuPont Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman to defend against Trian’s campaign to seek four board seats. Trian has criticized Kullman’s failure to reach her goal of 12 percent annual earnings growth for three straight years and it argues that the 212-year-old company should be broken up.

Trian, which is based in New York, held a 2.7 percent stake in DuPont at the end of last year, and says the company can cut USD4 billion in costs. While DuPont already plans to spin off Chemours, Trian advocates the rest of the company be split in two. One part would include the faster-growing agriculture and nutrition units and another would encompass more cyclical businesses.

Kullman’s choice to fight Trian, saying shareholder returns outpaced major stock indexes since she became CEO in 2009, contrasts with industry peers Dow Chemical Co. and Air Products & Chemicals Inc., who have decided to work with activists.

At the same time, she has already implemented some of the recommendations made by Trian, including the sale of the DuPont Theater in Wilmington.

DuPont shareholders will vote to select the board at the company’s annual meeting in April.

DuPont is an American chemical company that was founded in July, 1802. The company manufactures a wide range of chemical products, leading extensive innovative research in this field. The company is the inventor of many unique plastics and other materials, including neoprene, nylon, Teflon, Kevlar, Mylar, Tyvek, etc. DuPont was the developer and main producer of Freon used in the production of refrigeration equipment.

LG Chem to shut SM plant in South Korea for maintenance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Korean petrochemical company LG Chem is likely to shut a styrene monomer (SM) plant for maintenance turnaround, according to Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in South Korea informed that the plant is likely to be shut in March 2015. It is likely to remain off-stream for around one month.

Located in Daesan, South Korea, the plant has a production capacity of 180,000 mt/year.

As MRC wrote before, LG Chem last shut this SM plant for maintenance turnaround on March 23, 2014. It remained off-stream for around two weeks.

We also remind that LG Chem is planning to build an ethylene production plant in Atyrau, Kazakhstan. The project is going to be constructed in collaboration with two other Kazakh firms. The production is expected to begin in late 2016.

LG Chem Ltd., often referred to as LG Chemical, is the largest Korean chemical company and is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. According to ICIS report, it is 15th biggest chemical company in the world in 2011. It has eight domestic factories and global network of 29 business locations in 15 countries. LG Chem is a manufacturer, supplier, and exporter of petrochemical goods, IT&E Materials and Energy Solutions.

Moodys sees better profitability for S Korean LG Chem in 2015

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Moody's Investors Service says that LG Chem Ltd's weaker operating results for 2014 when compared with 2013 will not immediately impact its A3 issuer rating or stable rating outlook, as per Moody's.

"While LG Chem recorded a significant year-on-year fall in operating income in 2014, the company's prudent capital spending levels resulted in a stable financial profile," says Wan Hee Yoo, a Moody's Vice President and Senior Analyst. According to the company's announcement on 26 January 2015, LG Chem's unadjusted operating income fell 25% year-on-year to KRW1.31 trillion in 2014 from KRW1.74 trillion in 2013.

The decline in its reported EBITDA was less severe at 12% because depreciation charges grew during the same period. The decline in its earnings in 2014 was mainly due to the appreciation of the won, inventory losses stemming from the steep decline in crude oil prices, and weaker earnings from its non-chemical businesses.

Moody's points out that LG Chem's adjusted debt/EBITDA grew only marginally to 1.3x in 2014 from 1.2x in 2013 because of a fall in debt levels, which was owing to a containment in capital expenditure and working capital deficits.

Its adjusted net debt/EBITDA was much lower at 0.6x in 2014. This level of leverage is in line with its A3 rating, although it is at the weak end of the rating category. Moody's expects LG Chem's profitability to rebound moderately in 2015 in the absence of the one-off losses it incurred in 2014, provided that crude oil prices do not decline further and exchange rates remain stable.

The company's earnings should also benefit from continued capacity additions and increased sales of value-added products, as well as lower feedstock costs, the latter of which should be positive for its chemical product spreads.

These factors will mitigate the persistent downward pressure on the spreads of its commodity petrochemical products, which is driven by the slowing demand growth in China. Given these assumptions and Moody's expectation that LG Chem's capital expenditure and working capital consumption levels will be manageable in 2015, the company's adjusted debt/EBITDA should stay at about 1.2x over the next 12-18 months; which in turn is at a level similar to that in 2014.

LG Chem Ltd is a major Asian producer of a diverse mix of commodity and specialty chemicals including olefins, polyolefins, ABS, engineering plastics, acrylate, plasticizers, synthetic rubbers, PVC and specialty polymers. The company is also a global producer of LCD panel materials and rechargeable batteries. Its revenues totaled KRW22.6 trillion (USD21.4 billion) in 2014, with its chemical business accounting for about 76% of consolidated revenue during the same period. The company has 18 manufacturing locations in six countries.

Sika to acquire the assets of Duro-Moza

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sika has agreed to acquire the assets of Duro-Moza, a Mozambique based company active in production and sales of specialized mortars and tile adhesives, said the company in its press release.

The transaction will accelerate Sika Mozambique’s development and market penetration. Duro-Moza generated sales of CHF 2 million in 2014.

Duro-Moza has developed a comprehensive product range covering plasters, tile adhesives, dry shakes, grouting and concrete repairs. The company is located in the capital city of Maputo and has established a strong position in the promising market Mozambique.

Sika founded its own subsidiary in Mozambique in 2014. The acquisition will provide Sika Mozambique with an ideal start in the market, giving immediate access to its own production facility and to an established customer base in the fast growing construction sector.

Paul Schuler, Head of region EMEA: "This acquisition is the first acquisition in Africa and will provide us with a solid platform from which to expand further in the region. We welcome the new employees on board and look forward to developing the business together."

As MRC wrote before, Sika has recently entered into exclusive negotiations with Axson management and shareholders to acquire Axson Technologies, a leader in the field of epoxy and polyurethane polymer formulations for design, prototyping and tooling, structural adhesives, composite materials and encapsulation products for the automotive, nautical, renewable energy, sports & leisure and construction markets.

Sika is a specialty chemicals company with a leading position in the development and production of systems and products for bonding, sealing, damping, reinforcing and protecting in the building sector and the motor vehicle industry. Sika has subsidiaries in 90 countries around the world and manufactures in over 160 factories. Its more than 16,000 employees generated annual sales of CHF 5.6 billion in 2014.

SIBUR may slow spending on some projects to curb risk

MOSCOW (MRC) -- SIBUR Holding, a leading Russian gas processing and petrochemicals company, may slow some project spending as the Russian petrochemical producer seeks to curb risks from the economy amid US and European sanctions against the country, reported Bloomberg.

"This is to avoid risks for the company in 2016 and 2017 if the price and economic situation does not change," Chief Executive Officer Dmitry Konov said in an interview in Davos, Switzerland, without identifying any specific projects.

Russia, the largest oil and gas exporter, faces a recession this year as crude prices fell more than 50% in six months. The US and Europe also sanctioned people and companies after Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine and supported a separatist insurgency in its neighbor. Billionaire Gennady Timchenko, who owns more than 15% of SIBUR, is among those sanctioned.

While SIBUR isn't on any sanctions list, it doesn’t have any borrowing plans as wider debt costs have risen, Konov said.

"Due to the economic situation and existing sanctions against a number of Russian companies and banks, public debt sales for any Russian company will be extremely expensive if possible at all," he said.

Even if annual spending falls, SIBUR expects higher output in its crude and petrochemicals operations as recently completed projects expand capacity, Konov said.

As MRC informed previously, in May 2014, SIBUR signed a contract with China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (or "Sinopec") to establish a joint venture for the construction of a 50,000 tpa butadiene nitrile rubber (or "NBR") plant at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park, 50km south of Shanghai. Sinopec’s share in the joint venture will be 74.9% and SIBUR’s will be 25.1%.

SIBUR is a uniquely positioned vertically integrated gas processing and petrochemicals company. We own and operate Russia’s largest gas processing business in terms of associated petroleum gas processing volumes and are a leader in the Russian petrochemicals industry. As of 31 March 2014, SIBUR operated 27 production sites located all over Russia, had over 1,400 large customers engaged in the energy, chemical, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), automotive, construction and other industries in approximately 70 countries worldwide and employed over 27,000 personnel.