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DowDuPont rebounds on stronger sales; names 3 spin-off boards

"We remain on track" for next Spring's breakups, said CEO Ed Breen

DuPont Co. sigange is displayed on a bag of engineering polymer beads used for injection molding at the Peritus Plastics facility in Mazon, Ill., in May 2017.
DuPont Co. sigange is displayed on a bag of engineering polymer beads used for injection molding at the Peritus Plastics facility in Mazon, Ill., in May 2017.Read moreDaniel Acker/Bloomberg

Shares of DowDuPont Inc. rose 8 percent Thursday, partly reversing recent declines, as the company reported higher than expected sales and profits and promised to spend $3 billion buying back its own shares over the next year.

"Each division is performing well," chief executive Edward D. Breen told investors on a conference call, adding that "we remain on track" to split off a reorganized Dow Chemical Co., based in Michigan, next April 1, and divide what's left of the manufacturing giant into Corteva Agriscience (pesticides and crop seeds) and a reorganized DuPont Co. (electronics, nutrition, and other "specialty products") on June 1.

Net sales rose 10 percent, to $20.1 billion, for the three months ended Sept. 30, as the company boosted prices, an average 5 percent, DowDuPont said in a statement. As usual, gains were uneven, with packaging sales growing faster than the company as a whole, while farm sales trailed. Profits rose almost twice as fast as overall sales, as the company cut costs faster than raw-material costs rose. DowDuPont said it earned $3.8 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, and accounting charges in the quarter, up 19 percent from a year earlier.

Net income in the quarter was $497 million, down 3 percent from $514 million in the same quarter a year ago. The stock closed Thursday at $58.27 after gaining 8.07 percent or $4.35 for the day.

Breen said he plans an additional $300 million in cost cuts, on top of $3.3 billion in previously announced and projected annual cost reductions, in advance of the breakup.

The company also said it paid an extra $2.2 billion into its pension plans in advance of the spin-off. Retirees, including a pensioners' group organized by Alabama-based ex-DuPont lobbyist Lawrence Craig Skaggs, have urged the company to commit to continuing the pensions and medical benefits as promised, and to make clear how they will be funded, instead of attempting to convert them into life insurance policies as some other big companies have.

DuPont shares fell 6 percent on Oct. 18 after the company wrote off $4.6 billion in accounting goodwill and "intangibles," typically accumulated in past acquisitions, after reducing sales and profit projections for North America and Latin America.

Also Thursday, Breen, the New Hope resident and Comcast director who also reorganized Tyco International and broke it into TE Connectivity and other companies in the 2000s and early 2010s, named his fellow board members at the reorganized DuPont, where he will serve as executive chairman. His counterparts at planned spin-offs Corteva Agrisciences and Dow Chemical also named directors:

The board of the new DuPont, based in the Wilmington area, will include Breen's choice as CEO, veteran DuPont specialty-products chief Marc Doyle; Eleuthere I. du Pont, who has headed the founding family's Longwood Foundation after serving as a senior manager at his mother's family business, Wawa Inc.; Alexander M. Cutler, former chairman of Eaton Corp. and a longtime DuPont director; Rajiv L. Gupta, Breen's fellow adviser at New Mountain Capital, who sold Philadelphia's former Rohm & Haas to Dow in 2009;  Luther C. Kissam IV, chairman and CEO of Albemarle Corp., the largest U.S.-based producer of lithium and a rival of Philadelphia-based FMC Corp.'s Livent lithium spin-off; Ruby R. Chandy, a former executive at Pall Corp.; Raymond J. Milchovich, former CEO at Foster Wheeler AG; and Steven Sterin, a former executive at Andeavor.

Corteva, including former DuPont pesticide brands and its Pioneer seed labs in Iowa, and Dow pesticide businesses based in Indiana and other states, will, like DuPont, be headquartered in Delaware. Greg Page, retired chairman and chief executive of grain giant Cargill Inc., will serve as Corteva's nonexecutive chairman. Page named a new board, including James C. Collins Jr., a veteran DuPont pesticide executive who will serve as Corteva chief executive; former DuPont directors Lois D. Juliber, ex of Colgate-Palmolive, and  Lamberto Andreotti, former CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb; Boston University president Robert A. Brown; former U.S. Sen. Michael O. Johanns (R., Neb.); Lee M. Thomas, former CEO of Rayonier Inc.; and Patrick J. Ward, chief financial officer at Cummins Inc.

The reorganized Dow, based in Michigan, will be overseen by a board headed by chairman Jeff Fettig, chairman of Whirlpool Corp. It will include Dow's CEO-designate Jim Fitterling; Ajay Banga, CEO of MasterCard and a past Citigroup executive; Jacqueline K. Barton, a chemistry professor at Caltech; James A. Bell, a former Boeing executive; Wesley G. Bush, chief executive at Northrop Grumman; Richard K. Davis, former CEO of U.S. Bancorp; Jacqueline Hinman, former CEO of CH2M; Dennis H. Reilley, board chairman at Marathon Oil Corp.; Ruth G. Shaw, former Duke Nuclear executive; Daniel Yohannes, former ambassador for the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development.

In a question-and-answer session after the announcement, Breen acknowledged that a number of the Dow directors are close to retirement age, and added that there will likely be additional appointments to the boards.