DuPont Revises 2011 Guidance

DuPont has reduced its 2011 earnings-per-share guidance by a dime, down to a range of $3.87 – $3.95.

In the company’s press release CEO Ellen J. Kullman said something somewhat disconcerting:

“We are seeing slower growth in certain segments during the fourth quarter, driven by economic uncertainty. This uncertainty is contributing to ongoing conservative cash flow management in some supply chains.”

Inventory drawdowns are very normal this time of year. A bigger inventory reduction than expected can mean many things. For instance, it can mean that customers expect prices in the supply chain to decline. (The most benign option.) Customers can be cashing out their inventories in order to brace themselves for potential Armageddon. (This happened during the 2008 panic.) Or customers, not knowing what the future has in store, don’t want to tie up too much of their working capital in inventories. (Middle of the road, not necessarily bad. This seems to be Kullman’s view.)

Also, keep in mind that DuPont has reset its 2011 guidance a bunch of times. Here are the changes:

Oct. 25, 2011:      $3.97 – $4.05

July 28, 2011:     $3.90 – $4.05

Apr. 21, 2011:      $3.65 – $3.85

Jan. 25, 2011:     $3.45 – $3.75

Dec. 14, 2010:     $3.30 – $3.60

DuPont is still way ahead of where it was in April.

Looking at the list reminds me of Dow Chemical, which rather famously doesn’t give earnings guidance. I do see the wisdom in such a policy. Real numbers come in every quarter. Analysts have their own set of fake numbers. Why have another fake number? (Companies tend to lowball these anyway to set the stage for an artificial earnings beat.)

If I am ever at the helm of a public company*, I would adopt the no guidance policy.

*It would be a breach of fiduciary duty for a board of directors to let such a thing happen.

Author: Alex Tullo

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