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Chemical giant The Dow Chemical Company (DOW - Analyst Report) has announced that its Board has approved a program which authorizes it to buy back shares worth $1.5 billion. The repurchases under the plan will be made over time in open market or through privately negotiated transactions.

The share repurchase program is consistent with Dow’s initiative to reward its shareholders. Dow aims to utilize its cash primarily in deleveraging, returning value to its shareholders and investing in its high growth downstream businesses.

Last month, Dow released its fourth-quarter 2012 results. The company slipped to a bigger loss in fourth-quarter 2012, hit by a sizable restructuring charge and loss on goodwill impairment in its Formulated Systems business. Weakness across end markets, especially in China, and weak pricing also hurt the results.

The company posted a loss of $716 million or 61 cents a share, significantly wider than a loss of $20 million or 2 cents a share recorded a year ago. Charges (of around $990 million) associated with restructuring crimped its bottom line in the fourth quarter.

Barring one-time items (including restructuring and goodwill impairment charges), the company earned 33 cents a share in the quarter, up from 25 cents a year ago. That, however, missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny.

Dow is benefiting from strong fundamentals in agriculture and food markets and is leveraging its North American feedstock advantage. A string of innovative products in its pipeline adds to its strength. However, weakness in the electronics and construction end-markets may continue in first-quarter 2013.

Dow currently retains a short-term Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Other companies in the chemical industry worth considering are Arkema S.A. (ARKAY), PetroLogistics LP and BASF SE (BASFY). All these companies retain a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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