Dow Chemical Co. posted an up-and-down quarter, setting a first-quarter sales record, but also seeing quarterly profit plunge almost 20 percent.
In a news release, officials with Midland, Mich.-based Dow said double-digit sales improvements in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America in the quarter more than offset continued weakness in North America, particularly in the housing and automotive sectors.
Dow's first-quarter sales mark of $12.4 billion was the highest in the firm's 110-year history. Almost 52 percent of Dow's first-quarter sales came from plastics-related businesses. First-quarter sales in performance plastics were up about 1 percent vs. last year, while sales in basic plastics essentially were flat. Companywide, sales were up about 3 percent.
Pretax profit in basic plastics - including polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene - was up almost 11 percent to $527 million, with PE in particular posting healthy sales gains. But profit in performance plastics - including polycarbonate and polyurethane - plunged almost 40 percent to $441 million.
``I think it may be appropriate to paraphrase Mark Twain by saying, `The reports of polyethylene's death have been greatly exaggerated,''' Dow's Kathleen Fothergill said in a conference call. ``The business saw healthy volume gains across the globe.''
Fothergill - Dow's corporate director of investor relations - added that performance plastics' poor showing was a result of the loss of a substantial amount of licensing revenue from a year ago.
Dow has been battling through a tumultuous time marked by rumors of an acquisition or breakup of the company, and by the firing of longtime executives Romeo Kreinberg and J. Pedro Reinhard allegedly for negotiating with financiers without the approval of the company.
Dow ranks among the world's largest makers of PE and PS. On Wall Street, the firm's per-share stock price began the year around $40 but was around $45.50 in late trading April 26.