DuPont: Ready to Bloom by Thomas G. Donlan
Highlighted companies: E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DD), Monsanto Co. (MON)
Summary: Shares of E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DD) have gone nowhere for much of the decade. This may be about to change: DD is launching one new product after another, and stands to making a real mark in the realm of genetically modified seeds. DuPont's five segments: (1) Agriculture & Nutrition -- seeds, soy products, insecticides. Pioneer Hi-Bred seeds is speedily engineering useful traits into soy and corn products. (2) Coatings & Color Technologies -- auto-industry dependent; 1/3 of sales are to foreign companies. (3) Electronics & Communications -- makes materials for semiconductor manufacturers, refrigerants, Teflon for cookware, insulation. New approaches to making flat-screen displays offer DD prospects for "sudden growth." (4) Performance materials -- resins, films, polymers. (5) Safety & Protection -- Kevlar fiber, Tyvek insulation, Corian table tops; some of DD's fastest growing products. CEO Charles O. Holliday Jr. has made a point of beefing up R&D, going back to DuPont's roots as an inventor/innovator, but using their biological know-how to help them develop their chemical innovations cheaper and faster than previously possible (see the article for an example). It has put strict management controls on R&D spending, concentrating of finding new products, or coming up with new ways to exploit existing DuPont technologies; close to 35% of revenues now come from products that are four years or less from introduction. Bottom line: Shares currently trade at 15x 2007 earnings, far below the 29x enjoyed by biocrop innovator Monsanto Co. (MON), and could easily climb 15-20% in the coming year.
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