agriculture division avoided headwinds from a "slow-to-no growth"
economic environment to post its best ever fourth-quarter results, led by
soaring seed sales.
chemicals conglomerate reported a net loss of $716m in the October-to-December
period, widened from a $20m loss a year before.
While this included
a $990m charge for implementing plans to axe 5% of its workforce, close 20
plants and write down the value of its lithium ion battery business, even
excluding one-off items the group's earnings came in a $0.33 per share, a
little short of Wall Street expectations.
half of 2012 saw significant deterioration in the markets we serve,
particularly in China," Andrew Liveris, the Dow chairman and chief
executive, said, adding that the group had undertaken "aggressive action
to mitigate the effects of a slow-to-no-growth global environment".
However, he said
that Dow's agricultural sciences business, which sells seeds and sprays under
brands such as Chlorpyrifos and Herculex, "continues to outperform, driven
by its technology pipeline".
Sale of new agrichemicals
rose 11%, narrowly ahead of the 10% for the crop protection portfolio as a
The result leaves
"the business on track to exceed its target of $800m in sales from [new]
products by 2013", Dow said.
Seed in demand
Sales of seed
soared 44%, "driven by continued strong growth in both North America and
Latin America," Dow said.
Farmers in South
America maximised sowings, ahead of harvests now in their early stages, in an
attempt to cash in on elevated crop prices, while US growers are expected to follow
suit this spring.
The extent of
expected US demand, particularly for corn seed, has prompted some talk of a
shortage of supplies following last year's disappointing harvest, and rumours
of farmers stocking up on seed early to avoid being caught short.
Overall agriculture division earnings
before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) rose 8% to $156m,
on sales up 17% at $1.6bn – with both figures recorded for an
Dow Chemical shares fell 6.7% to close at $32.20 in New York.