After a challenging 2019, officials with materials giant Dow Inc. see reasons for optimism in 2020.
Midland, Mich.-based Dow — one of the world's largest suppliers of polyethylene and specialty plastics — reported fourth-quarter and full-year financials on Jan. 29. The firm posted a loss of almost $1.3 billion for the year after showing a profit of almost $4.8 billion in 2018. Sales for 2019 were down 13.5 percent to just under $43 billion.
Dow became an independent company again on April 1 after a two-year merger with DuPont Co. That split also created an independent DuPont and a third independent company, Corteva.
For Dow, 2019 sales in its Packaging and Specialty Plastics unit — including PE — were down 16.5 percent to $20.2 billion. Pro forma pretax profit for that business was down almost 13 percent to $4.3 billion. Full-year sales in Dow's Industrial Intermediates and Infrastructure unit — including polyurethanes — were down 13 percent to $13.4 billion, with pretax profit sliding almost 40 percent to $1.4 billion.
In a news release, CEO Jim Fitterling said that Dow is "well-positioned to navigate the market dynamics that have carried into 2020 by focusing on the actions in our control."
"We will continue to advance our pipeline of higher-return, lower-risk investments, particularly in sectors closer to the consumer where demand conditions remain favorable," he added. "By taking advantage of our unique feedstock capabilities, we will maintain our competitive cost positions."
Fitterling also said that Dow "expects to further reduce our cost structure over the course of the year as we complete the stranded cost removal."
"Taken together, these actions will give us the ability to continue to advance our strategic and financial priorities, outperform the competition and drive value for all our stakeholders," he said.
On Wall Street, Dow's per-share stock price was under $43 in early August but was above $49 in early trading Jan. 29.