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Eastman Chemical Company (EMN - Analyst Report) has entered into an agreement with Chapel Hill-based University of North Carolina (UNC) to conduct research in the fields of chemistry and materials science. The collaboration complements the earlier announced agreement between Eastman Chemical and North Carolina State University.

The agreement offers at least $1.5 million over a period of 6 years to aid the collaboration between Eastman Chemical scientists and UNC scientists, staff and students. Eastman Chemical and UNC will make joint efforts to bring innovative new ideas and technologies in market that run faster than traditional approaches.

This collaboration involves a series of programs including research projects, visits to both the UNC campus and Eastman Chemical manufacturing facilities and identifying and applying for federal or other funding opportunities.

Under the agreement, UNC’s chemistry faculty members will address Eastman Chemical developed problem statements or ‘Requests for Proposals’ (RFP) by submitting research proposals periodically. Eastman Chemical will then select the given UNC proposals for funding each year. The first decision regarding the projects is expected in spring 2013.

Last month, Eastman Chemical released its fourth-quarter 2012 results. The company slipped to a loss in the quarter hurt by losses related to pension benefit and other charges. Adjusted earnings, however, matched the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Revenues rose at a double-digit clip riding on the contributions of Solutia acquisition, but missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate.  

Eastman Chemical’s diversified chemical portfolio, along with its integrated and diverse downstream businesses remains its strength. It also benefits from business restructuring, cost-cutting measures and increased capacity additions. However, the company remains exposed to weak pricing. Uncertainty regarding the timing of a recovery in Europe also remains as overhang.

Eastman Chemical currently maintains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Other companies in the chemical industry worth considering are Akzo Nobel NV (AKZOY), Arkema S.A. (ARKAY) and BASF SE (BASFY). All of these hold a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
 

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