With its reach into a wide range of markets, DuPont is well-positioned to weather any sorts of financial storms. As DuPont announced financial results for the fourth quarter 2020, the company held steady overall, with gains in some areas offset by declines in others.
Net sales totaled $5.3 billion, up 1% versus the year-ago period as reported and flat with the year-ago period on an organic basis. The company reported its fifth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth in Electronics & Imaging led by strength in both semiconductors and smartphone technologies, coupled with further recovery in automotive markets.
However, continued weakness in oil & gas, aerospace and select industrial markets led to declines in the Safety & Construction segment.
“The leading positions we hold in automotive, protective garments, residential construction, semiconductor, and smartphones markets enabled us to capitalize on positive momentum and deliver strong fourth quarter results with sequential volume improvement in all segments,” said Ed Breen, DuPont executive chairman and CEO.
“Operating leverage and year-over-year operating EBITDA margin expansion in each of our core segments in the fourth quarter is a proof point in our teams’ commitment to execution,” added Breen.
“In addition to delivering strong financial results during the quarter, our teams remained laser-focused on closing out a number of our strategic priorities,” Breen continued. “Earlier this month, we completed the separation of our Nutrition & Biosciences business and have also signed agreements to divest our Clean Technologies and Solamet businesses. We also made a joint announcement with Corteva and Chemours regarding an agreement to settle legal disputes originating from the 2015 spin-off of Chemours from E.I. du Pont and the pending personal injury claims in the Ohio multi-district litigation. This agreement provides a measure of security and certainty for us and our shareholders regarding any potential exposures related to these legacy matters.”
Operating EBITDA was $1.3 billion, down 7% versus operating EBITDA in the prior year, the company noted. Stronger demand in Electronics & Imaging, Nutrition & Biosciences, and Transportation & Industrial, as well as approximately $130 million of non-manufacturing cost reductions, contributed to operating leverage and operating EBITDA margin expansion in each of the core segments versus the year-ago period.
Operating cash flow of $1.3 billion included improvements in working capital of more than $500 million in the quarter, which was driven by improvements across accounts receivable, inventories and accounts payable. Capital expenditures of $272 million resulted in a free cash flow of $1 billion.
For the year, operating cash flow of $4.1 billion and free cash flow of $2.9 billion were enabled by an improvement in working capital of approximately $850 million and capital expenditures of $1.0 billion. Strong cash flow generation throughout the year enabled a greater than $1.8 billion reduction in commercial paper balances to close 2020 with zero commercial paper outstanding.
In particular, Electronics & Imaging reported a record quarter with net sales of $1 billion, up 9% from the year-ago period. Sales gains were led by Interconnect Solutions as organic sales grew by double-digits, driven by higher material content in premium, next-generation smartphones. Semiconductor Technologies also delivered strong growth in the quarter as new technology ramps across logic and foundry delivered high-single-digit volume growth versus the year-ago period.
Within Image Solutions, high single-digit organic growth was led by strength in OLEDs for displays and inks for the consumer segment, partially offset by weakness in flexographic plates and inks for commercial and textile printing.
Operating EBITDA for the segment was $323 million, an increase of 10% from operating EBITDA of $293 million in the year-ago period, driven primarily by strong volume growth and continued productivity actions partially offset by the absence of a prior-year gain.
“For 2021, we expect net sales between $15.4 and $15.6 billion, an increase of 8% at the mid-point versus 2020 net sales of $14.3 billion and operating EBITDA between $3.83 and $3.93 billion, an increase of 13% at the mid-point versus 2020 operating EBITDA of $3.4 billion, reflecting anticipated solid top-line growth and robust operating EBITDA margin expansion,” said Lori Koch, CFO of DuPont
“We also expect a strong first quarter of 2021 with net sales between $3.75 and $3.85 billion, an increase of 4% at the mid-point versus 1Q 2020 net sales of $3.7 billion, operating EBITDA between $950 and $970 million, an increase of 6% at the mid-point versus 1Q 2020 operating EBITDA of $907 million, and adjusted EPS in the range of $0.75 to $0.77 per share, an increase of 58% at the mid-point versus 1Q 2020 adjusted EPS of $0.48 per share,” Koch stated.