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Chemical Suppliers, Paint Manufacturers Report First-Quarter Earnings

Deterioration in the global economy resulted in soft first-quarter earnings numbers due to lower demand in many of the end-use markets serviced by major paint manufacturers and chemical suppliers. Suppliers are hopeful that the second quarter earnings will be much improved as customers seek to replenish inventories.

How things shook out:

PPG Industries Inc., which makes paint, coatings, and chemicals, reported a loss of $111 million in the first quarter due to a restructuring charge and weaker demand amid the global economic downturn. The company's loss amounted to 68 cents per share for the three months ended March 31. That compares with a profit of $100 million, or 61 cents per share, during the same period last year. Excluding one-time items, PPG would have reported net income of $32 million, or 19 cents per share.

“Our first-quarter results reflect continued deterioration in the global economy, resulting in lower demand in many of the end-use markets we serve,” said Charles E. Bunch, PPG chairman and CEO. The biggest declines, he noted, came in the automotive and industrial markets.

DuPont Co., the third-biggest U.S. chemical maker, said first-quarter revenue tumbled 20% to $6.87 billion as sales volumes dropped 19%. On the plus side, Jeff Keefer, chief financial officer, expects demand will improve from first-quarter lows because most customers have used up inventories and are increasing purchases. In addition, the company plans to slash fixed costs by $1 billion, $270 million more than previously targeted, partly by reducing DuPont’s workforce. The company, which is eliminating 2,500 employees, cut 10,000 contractors through March.

Sherwin-Williams Co. saw its first-quarter profit fall by more than half. The company earned $37.3 million, or 32 cents per share, down from a profit of $77.9 million, or 64 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales fell 13% to $1.55 billion.

Cytec Industries, Inc. announced losses across most of its divisions, despite net sales of $612 million. Shane Fleming, chairman, president, and CEO, said the company experienced a significant decline in sales across all of its chemical product lines caused by the steep downturn in the automotive, construction, and general industrial markets. Sales volumes declined in all regions and most of its chemical plants ran at significantly lower operating rates than the prior year period. Engineered Materials was also impacted, with lower volumes from large commercial transport and business and regional jets. Specifically, Cytec Surface Specialties sales decreased 46% to $243 million (operating loss of $20.7 million). Cytec Engineered Materials sales decreased by 15% to $170 million (operating earnings of $33.1 million). Cytec Building Block Chemicals sales decreased by 52% to $67 million; operating earnings of $3.2 million. However, the company did see modest growth in the military sector.

Akzo Nobel NV, the world’s largest maker of paints and coatings, reported a loss of €7 million ($9.06 million) for the first quarter. Sales fell 13% to €3.27 billion ($4.23 billion) amidst the global economic downturn. During the same period last year, the company reported a net profit of €105 million ($135 million).

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