By RANDALL CHASE
AP Business Writer
DOVER, Del. (AP) - Chemical maker DuPont Co. continued its turnaround with a strong first quarter performance, as business improved across all operating units and market regions.
The company also increased its full-year earnings guidance as it reported earnings of about $1.14 billion, or $1.24 per share, for the quarter ending March 31, up from $488 million, or 54 cents per share, for the first quarter of last year.
Revenue totaled $8.48 billion, up 23 percent from $6.87 billion, as DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., saw its first significant increase in sales and volume in the U.S. in more than a year.
The results easily beat expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a profit of $1.06 cents per share on revenue of just over $8 billion.
"I am very pleased with our performance; the way we responded to changing market demands and our momentum going forward," said CEO Ellen Kullman.
The company had been relying on results from its agriculture and nutrition business while units that sold coatings and other products to the automotive and housing markets struggled during the recession. Those businesses saw strong gains in revenue and operating profit during the first quarter, even as the agriculture unit saw volumes increase a scant 1 percent. Officials said strong North American seed sales by the agriculture and nutrition unit were partly offset by delays in the European planting season.
DuPont's strong first-quarter performance followed a turnaround in the fourth quarter of last year, when it swung to a $441 million profit from a $629 million loss in the final three months of 2008.
As in the fourth quarter, DuPont's performance chemicals unit saw increased demand for titanium dioxide in the first three months of this year.
DuPont officials have said demand for products such as titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in consumer goods, house paint and automotive coatings, often indicates whether the economy is growing or contracting, particularly in the short term.
DuPont on Tuesday cited a recovery in the automotive and industrial markets, and moderate strengthening in construction markets, for improved performance in its safety and protection unit, whose products include Kevlar aramid fiber and Tyvek house wrap.
Overall sales volume increased by 19 percent, led by a 65 percent volume increase in the Asia-Pacific region.
Performance among DuPont's various business segments was led by the electronics and communications unit, which reported a 60 percent increase in volume on strong global demand, led by the Asia-Pacific region, and increased demand for photovoltaics.
DuPont's performance materials unit saw volume increase by 56 percent as demand improved in the automotive, industrial, consumer and electronic markets.
"We're off to an excellent start to what should be a great year for the Dupont Co." said chief financial officer Nick Fanandakis.
Kullman said the first-quarter results reflect DuPont's efforts to cut costs, respond to customers needs and focus on research and development.
"Our intense focus on customers, sustained R&D investments and productivity improvements are delivering growth," Kullman said. "Macro trends drove first-quarter demand for our science-based innovations, and DuPont was ready."
The company increased its full-year earnings guidance to a range of $2.50 to $2.70 per share, up from $2.15 to $2.45 per share.
DuPont shares were down $1.22 to $39.73 in morning trading. That's still near the 52-week high of $41.15.