Wilmington, DE-based DuPont reported a $629 million loss for the fourth-quarter due to lower sales and a hefty restructuring charge, and cut its earnings forecast for 2009. Excluding a charge of $380 million from a previously announced restructuring program, the fourth quarter loss was $249 million.
Net sales in the quarter dropped 17% to $5.8 billion from $6.98 billion, as the company reported a 20% decline in volume. Higher prices in all regions and across all business segments were more than offset by volume declines and negative currency effects.
Full-year 2008 earnings were $2 billion, down from $2.9 billion in 2007. The company said declines in consumer spending, construction and motor vehicle sales led to sharp drop in demand and a steep decline in global industrial production.
Citing weak economic conditions, the company revised its full-year earnings estimate for 2009 to a range of $2 to $2.5 per share, down from its previous guidance of $2.25 to $2.75 per share. It also announced further cuts to its contractor work force. Last month, DuPont announced that it would cut 2500 jobs and was releasing 4000 contractors by the end of 2008, with additional contractor reductions expected this year.
CEO Ellen Kullman said that the company is on track with its job cuts, and that it plans to pare a total of 8000 contractors from its rolls by the end of this month. DuPont is eliminating merit salary increases this year and cutting work schedules for some employees, she said. "We're attacking costs and expenses aggressively," Ms. Kullman said, adding that the benefits of the restructuring will be seen in the second half of the year.
In the final quarter of 2008, volume dropped 22% in the U.S. and 20% in the Asia Pacific region, with 19% declines in Europe and the Canada-Latin America region. The company said it expects global economic conditions for first quarter of 2009 to be similar to those in the fourth quarter, with very weak demand in most key markets, excluding agriculture.