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DuPont (DD): Can Q1 Earnings Pull a Surprise Amid Headwinds?

DuPont DD is set to release its first-quarter 2016 results ahead of the bell on Apr 26.

The Delaware-based company swung to a loss in fourth-quarter 2015 on weak results in its agriculture business, unfavorable currency swings and charges related to restructuring actions. Adjusted earnings for the quarter beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Revenues declined year over year on lower sales across all businesses, and missed expectations.

Let’s see how things are shaping up for this announcement.
 
Factors to Watch For

DuPont, in its last earnings call, said that it expects operating earnings of $2.95 to $3.10 per share for 2016. It includes expected benefit of $0.64 per share from the company’s 2016 global cost savings and restructuring plan.

DuPont expects sales growth to be challenging in 2016 due to difficult conditions in agriculture & emerging markets and currency headwinds. Unfavorable currency impact on full-year operating earnings is expected to be 30 cents per share, reflecting continued strengthening of the U.S. dollar. Most of the impact is expected in the first half of 2016.

DuPont is faced with several headwinds that could affect its March quarter results. As the company derives more than 60% of its sales from overseas markets, a stronger dollar is expected to continue to weigh on its top line in the first quarter with the most significant impact expected in the agriculture business.

DuPont is also reeling under the effects of lower farm commodity prices and weak agricultural market conditions. It is seeing soft insecticide demand in Latin America. In particular, tighter profit margins and credit are making growers in Brazil more cautious in their spending. Lower insect pressure in Brazil and abundant inventories in the Americas present headwinds in crop protection markets. The company sees continued challenges in its agriculture business in 2016, as reflected in its guidance for the year.

Nevertheless, DuPont is taking aggressive cost-cutting actions amid a challenging backdrop. The company, in Dec 2015, divulged its plans to cut 10% of its global workforce as part of its 2016 cost savings and restructuring program. The 2016 restructuring program, which builds on the company's operational redesign initiative, is expected to deliver cost reductions of $730 million in 2016.

The company’s operational redesign actions delivered savings of around 40 cents per share in 2015. DuPont plans to deliver around 64 cents per share in cost reductions in 2016 through its global cost savings and restructuring program.

In a historic move, DuPont and Dow Chemical DOW agreed to combine their businesses in Dec 2015 in an all-stock deal to create a chemical titan dubbed “DowDuPont” with a combined market value of around $130 billion, before eventually breaking up into three independent companies through tax-free spin-offs.

The combined company would split into pure-play agricultural, material science and specialty products businesses that will be leading players in their respective fields. The breakup is expected to take place 18-24 months after the completion of the deal, which is expected in second-half 2016.

The companies, in February, declared that the corporate headquarters for the proposed Agriculture company – which will feature DuPont in its name after the completion of the corporate naming and branding process – will be based in Wilmington, DE. The companies also reaffirmed that the corporate headquarters for the combined specialty products business will remain in Wilmington. The Material Science company, which will feature Dow in its name, will be housed in Midland, MI.

The proposed mega-merger is projected to deliver cost synergies of around $3 billion, expected to be achieved with the first two years after the deal closure. The deal, however, would need regulatory clearances in several countries and is expected to face a tough antitrust scrutiny due to competitive concerns given its massive size and scale. We expect DuPont to provide an update on the planned merger in its first-quarter call.

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively show that DuPont is likely to beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate in the first quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP (Expected Surprise Prediction) and a Zacks Rank of #1, 2 or 3 for this to happen. That is not the case here, as you will see below.

Zacks ESP: The Earnings ESP for DuPont is 0.00% as both the Most Accurate Estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate stand at $1.02.

Zacks Rank: DuPont’s Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), when combined with a 0.00% ESP, makes surprise prediction difficult. We caution against stocks with a Zacks Rank #4 or 5 (Sell-rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions.

Stocks That Warrant a Look
 
Here are some stocks in the basic materials space that you may want to consider, as our model shows they have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. APD has an Earnings ESP of +0.56% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company SMG has an Earnings ESP of +1.21% and a Zacks Rank #2.

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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
 
DU PONT (EI) DE (DD): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
DOW CHEMICAL (DOW): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
AIR PRODS & CHE (APD): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
SCOTTS MIRCL-GR (SMG): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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