DowDuPont Delays Split, Plans Share Buyback

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As part of its first financial report, the chemical industry’s newest giant, the merged DowDuPont, has announced it has rolled back its timetable for splitting into three independent units. Additionally, it said it will continue to trim jobs to achieve the previously announced $3 billion in annual cost synergies. This will involve plant closures and the loss of an specified number of jobs. The new company is also buying back shares worth $4 billion.

CEO Edward Breen said the split of the merged company into three units, for agriculture, materials and specialty products, is now scheduled to take place on August 19, half a year later than the latest timetable update foresaw. In their announcement of the merger plans in late 2015, the then two separate players had said the process would be completed within three years of deal’s closing – which took place on Aug. 31 of this year.

Among those affected by the job cuts will be 100 employees at an ethanol plant in the US state of Iowa, which was opened by DuPont in 2015. The state government said it would try to recover some of the $3.5 million in tax credits, a $5 million forgivable loan and a $9 million Power-Fund Grant it had awarded the company for the project.

In the process of realignment, for which management expects restructuring charges of around $2 billion, DowDuPont will close a plant at La Porte, Texas, and a Kevlar high tech fibers plant at Cooper, South Carolina. It also intends to sell its cellulosic ethanol business, which includes a $200 million biorefinery opened by DuPont in 2015.

The  amendments to the spinoff plan urged by the hedge funds of Dow’s and DuPont’s respective activist investors, Daniel Lob and  Nelson Peltz, add complexity to the spinoffs and are partly responsible for the longer split timeline, Breen said. Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which forced the resignation of former DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman in October 2015, had criticized the $500 million spent on cellulosic ethanol as an example of DuPont’s “speculative and expensive corporate science projects.”

In other administrative measures, DowDuPont said it expects to boost sales by $1 billion through combining products from its predecessor companies and selling more aggressively.

The $5.5 billion Packaging & Specialty Plastics division has begun integrating DuPont’s resins and ethylene copolymers portfolio to deliver “high performance packaging solutions,” the company said, while Electronics & Imaging has identified opportunities to leverage its deeper channel access and broader suite of materials (OLED films, laminates, semiconductor materials) with its customers.

Under the share buyback program, shares may be repurchased periodically in open market or private transactions. The timing, number and value of shares repurchased will be determined by management and will take into account factors such as the market price of DowDuPont’s common stock, general market and economic conditions, applicable legal requirements and other business considerations.

Analysts expressed disappointment with the smaller than expected dimensions of the share repurchase plan. Some said they had expected buybacks worth as much as $8-10 million.

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