The Dow Chemical Company (DOW): New Analyst Report from Zacks Equity Research - Zacks Equity Research Report

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Summary:
We are downgrading our recommendation on Dow Chemical to Underperform factoring in uncertainties associated with currency and oil prices. The company's profit for fourth-quarter 2014 tumbled year over year, hurt by a sizable loss related to abandonment of a facility. Adjusted earnings, however, surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Revenues were flat year over year and missed expectations. The company said that it will remain focused on pursuing portfolio management and productivity actions. While Dow expects its strategic actions to enhance shareholder value this year, its performance plastics business remains exposed to near-term challenges given lower oil prices. The company also faces currency headwinds, pricing pressure, challenges in Western Europe and a still soft commercial construction end market.


Overview:

Headquartered in Michigan, The Dow Chemical Company (DOW) is the second-largest chemical manufacturer in the world, offering a range of chemical, plastic and agricultural products and services. The company has a global footprint across 160 countries and employs over 52,000 people. It has 197 manufacturing sites in 36 countries and produces around 5,000 products. As many as 42 manufacturing sites are located in the U.S. The rest are in Europe and other regions including the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In 2014, the company derived 37% of its revenues from North America, 34% from Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 16% from Asia Pacific and 13% from Latin America.

Dow is a global capacity leader in propylene oxide (PO) and propylene glycol (PG) manufacturing, with global PO capacity of more than 2,000 KTA and global PG capacity of more than 700 KTA. Dow currently has five global PG manufacturing facilities one of the world's highest capacity plants in Germany two facilities in North America a facility in Brazil and another in Australia.

Dow, in Nov 2014, announced the realignment of its reporting segments to better reflect its strategy and improve peer comparison capabilities. The new operating segment structure maximizes Dow's integration benefits either through molecular and value chain alignment or via the benefits derived from an enhanced, innovation-driven market focus. With the realignment, Dow's reporting segments now has changed to five from six. The revised segments are as follow:

Agricultural Sciences (13% of 2014 sales):

The division will continue to operate under the same structure comprised of crop protection and seeds. Dow's AgroSciences business provides agricultural and plant biotechnology products, pest management solutions and healthy oils.

Consumer Solutions (8%):

Earlier part of Electronic and Functional materials unit, and includes Consumer Care, Dow Automotive Systems, and Dow Electronic Materials. In the electronic material category, Dow manufactures materials for chemical mechanical planarization (a process to smoothen surfaces with the combination of chemical and mechanical forces), used in the production of electronic displays. Dow's automotive systems provides plastics, adhesives, glass bonding systems, emissions control technology, films, fluids, structural enhancement and acoustical management solutions to original equipment manufacturers, tier, aftermarket and commercial transportation customers.

Infrastructure Solutions (15%):

Earlier called Coatings and Infrastructure Solutions, and is comprised of Dow Building and Construction, Dow Coating Materials, Energy and Water Solutions and Performance Monomers. The building and construction business consist of Dow Building Solutions and Dow Construction Chemicals which provides insulation, house wrap, sealant and adhesive products and systems, as well as construction chemical solutions. Dow coating materials supplies raw materials for architectural paints and industrial coatings as well as technologies used in industrial coatings, including packaging, pipelines, wood, automotive, marine, maintenance and protective industries. Dow water and process solutions develop cost-effective technologies for water purification, desalination and separation solutions for specialty applications. The performance monomers business makes specialty monomer products that are used in several applications including cleaning materials, personal care products, paints, coatings and inks.

Performance Materials & Chemicals (26%):

Includes Chlor-Alkali and Vinyl, Chlorinated Organics, Epoxy, and Industrial Solutions and Polyurethanes. The chlor-alkali/chlor-vinyl business focuses on the production of chlorine for consumption by of downstream Dow derivatives, as well as production of ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride monomer and caustic soda. Dow is the world's largest producer of both chlorine and caustic soda. The chlorinated organics business supplies chlorinated organic products and services used in the production of fluoropolymers, refrigerants, methyl cellulose, quaternary ammonium compounds and silicones. It also offers solvents that are used as process agents in chemicals manufacturing, surface preparation, dry cleaning and pharmaceuticals. Moreover, it provides closed-loop delivery systems used to help manage risks associated with chlorinated solvents. The epoxy business produces epoxy resins and intermediates. Epoxies provide good adhesion and coating protection over a range of environmental conditions, making them ideal for applications such as transportation, marine and civil engineering. The polyurethanes business produces polyurethane raw materials, which are used in appliance, athletic equipment, automotive, bedding, construction, decorative molding, furniture and shoe soles.

Performance Plastics (38%):

Comprised of the company's earlier Performance Plastics business unit, however now also includes key raw material inputs through the energy and hydrocarbons business groups that were formerly included in the Feedstocks and Energy segment. Dow's performance plastics business offers elastomers, polyethylene, polypropylene, electrical and telecommunications and packaging and converting solutions. Dow's elastomers business produces performance elastomers and plastomers, specialty copolymers, synthetic rubber, specialty resins, and films and plastic additives that are used in adhesives, transportation, building and construction, packaging and consumer durables. The polyethylene business supplies polyethylene-based solutions. Polypropylene business supplies polypropylene as DOW homopolymer polypropylene resins DOW impact copolymer polypropylene resins, DOW random copolymer polypropylene resins, INSPIRE performance polymers UNIPOL PP process technology SHAC and SHAC ADT catalyst systems. Dow's electrical and telecommunications business offers products, technology, solutions and expertise that set standards for reliability, longevity, efficiency, ease of installation and protection used by the power and telecommunications industries. Dow's packaging and converting business makes sticking and bonding solutions and specialty films for a vast range of applications, including adhesive tapes and paper labels, flexible packaging, film substrates, industrial and consumer films and foams, leather, rigid packaging, and textile and imaging. The hydrocarbons business is engaged in obtaining raw materials including fuels, natural gas liquids and crude oil based raw materials, as well as the supply of monomers, power and steam, principally for Dow's global operations. The energy business supplies power, steam and other utilities, mainly for use in the company's global operations.

In addition to segment changes, Dow also changed the allocation of specific costs earlier reported within its Corporate segment, which will better reflect operating performance and profitability at the segment level. All leveraged functional costs will now be fully allocated to the segments.

Others

Activist investor Dan Loeb's Third Point hedge fund bought a major stake in Dow in January 2014. While Third Point did not specify the number of shares it purchased, it said that Dow is its biggest investment yet. Moreover, Third Point urged Dow to spin off its sluggish petrochemicals business and focus instead on high-margin, fast-growing businesses including agricultural science and electronics and functional materials. The entity, which has roughly $14 billion in assets under management, reportedly forked out $1.3 billion for the stake buy.

Dow and Third Point reached a crucial agreement in Nov 2014, under which, the former agreed to add four new, independent directors to its board (including two suggested by Third Point), thus avoiding the possibility of a proxy battle between them. All four new directors will be included in Dow's nominations for election at the 2015 annual meeting.


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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.




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Referenced Stocks: DOW , PG

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