Dow CEO Liveris Defends Strategy Against Hedge Fund
In a conference call to present financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2013, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris defended his strategy of integrating commodity chemicals with the specialty end of the business. He was responding to unsolicited recommendations by the $14 billion hedge fund Third Point that it carve out its petrochemicals business to cash in on the U.S. shale gas boom.
Dow only makes commodities such as ethylene and propylene to provide ingredients for higher value-added products in agriculture, electronics and plastics, Liveris said, adding that, "We have a very focused and integrated portfolio, a rising and increasingly growing earnings profile and tremendous flexibility."
After disclosing that it had acquired a sizeable stake in Dow, Third Point said the U.S. group's management should hire outside advisers to review the potential benefits of a spin-off of a petrochemicals company that would comprise its Feedstocks and Energy, Performance Plastics and Performance materials units.
Liveris told journalists that the group can realize more from the commodity business with projects such as a $4 billion capacity expansion planned for the U.S. Gulf Coast. He pointed to recent and future asset sales that show management is willing to take actions such as those suggested by the hedge fund. The planned divestment of the chlorine derivatives is a case in point, he said.
"We have not and will not shy away from aggressive options to exit complex portions of our portfolio," Liveris asserted. "When it comes to creating shareholder value, everything is on the table," he added.
In 2013, Dow increased earnings by 31%, which amounted to $3.68 per share, or $2.48 per share on an adjusted basis. A year earlier, the figures were $0.70 per share, or $1.90 per share. Sales rose 1% to $57.1 billion, or 3% on an adjusted basis, excluding sales from Feedstocks and Energy. EBITDA totaled $10.5 billion, or an adjusted $8.4 billion. The largest gain was achieved by Performance Plastics.