INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Strong sales of new crop-protection products helped Dow AgroSciences LLC report its highest revenue ever in the fourth quarter.
The manufacturer of agricultural products, a unit of Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co., said Wednesday morning that revenue rose 13 percent from the year-ago period, to $1.8 billion. Profit increased 13 percent, to $177 million, also a fourth-quarter record for the company. Revenue from Dow's crop-protection products grew 11 percent, driven by higher sales of herbicides in North America and Latin America.
Parent Dow Chemical also enjoyed a healthy fourth quarter, posting earnings that exceeded analysts' estimates as plastics continued to benefit from low-cost U.S. shale gas. Profit was $963 million, or 79 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $716 million, or 61 cents, a year earlier, Dow said. Profit excluding some one-time items was 65 cents, topping the 43-cent average of 20 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Dow said in a separate statement that it raised its quarterly dividend to 37 cents from 32 cents and expanded a share-buyback plan to $4.5 billion from $1.5 billion. The stock rose 4.5 percent, to $45, before the start of regular trading Wednesday.
Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris is under increased pressure to improve results after activist hedge fund Third Point LLC made Dow its top holding and this month recommended in a letter spinning off commodity chemicals and plastics as a separate company. The plastics unit accounted for 55 percent of segment earnings as low U.S. gas prices benefited margins. Sales in the quarter rose to $14.4 billion from $13.9 billion, exceeding the $14.1 billion average estimate of 14 analysts.