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Dow-30 component and diversified chemicals manufacturer DuPont (DDFree DuPont Stock Report) has reported first-quarter results. The company posted sales of $11.2 billion, an increase of 12% over the year-earlier figure and slightly below our $11.3 billion forecast. The Agriculture segment experienced seed sales growth, due to strong North American corn sales, an early start to the European season, and commercial success in Brazil's Safrinha season. Strength in insect control product sales and higher prices across the board helped boost revenues from Crop Protection products. Meanwhile, the Performance Chemicals line posted moderate growth, as higher selling prices more than offset lower volumes. Elsewhere, the Performance Coatings business continued to benefit from strong demand for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) motor vehicle and industrial coatings. In addition, rising sales in the Nutrition & Health segment reflected the acquisition of Danisco's specialty food ingredients business. Results at the Electronics & Communications line were less favorable. This unit's sales declined about 17%, year to year, owing to soft demand in photovoltaics. Overall, though, a solid top-line advance slightly outpaced growth in operating expenses. Share net of $1.61 exceeded the year-earlier tally of $1.52 and our $1.50 estimate. However, the stock moved modestly lower on the report.

Meanwhile, an improving performance will likely continue in the coming quarters. All told, we anticipate sales of $41 billion for full-year 2012, a year-to-year advance of 8%. The company has reaffirmed its share-earnings guidance of $4.20 to $4.40 for the current year. Our estimate of $4.30 lies at the midpoint of this range and is unchanged since our last full-page report dated April 13th.

Nevertheless, the stock is not without risk. As a diversified manufacturer of chemicals, the company remains vulnerable to weakness in the global economy. Macroeconomic challenges in Europe and elevated unemployment on the domestic front should continue to restrain spending. Our estimates may prove somewhat optimistic, should conditions in Europe deteriorate materially or if the uneven economic recovery on our shores loses steam.

Even so, DuPont remains well positioned in its markets, and we expect that the company will continue to benefit from several important global trends in the coming years. Roughly 75% of DuPont's capital and R&D expenditures are allocated toward segments with healthy growth potential. Efforts to control operating costs ought to support margins.

We anticipate higher revenues and share earnings for the company over the pull to 2015-2017. Moreover, DuPont earns high marks for Safety, Financial Strength, and Price Stability. Overall, this equity has good, well-defined total return potential for the coming years, considering its healthy dividend yield.

About The Company: DuPont is engaged in science and technology in a range of disciplines, including high performance materials, electronics, safety and security, and biotechnology. The company operates on a global scale, manufacturing a wide range of products for distribution and sale to many different markets, including automotive, construction, agricultural, medical, protective apparel, electronics and nutrition.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.