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DuPont Pioneer, the agriculture business arm of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DD - Analyst Report), has entered into a license agreement with Hayward, Calif.-based Mendel Biotechnology, Inc. to enhance water use efficiency and photosynthesis in corn.
 
Per the agreement, DuPont Pioneer and Mendel will evaluate and commercialize new gene leads. They will also assess them for yield-enhancement traits in Pioneer brand corn products. Mendel has identified these gene leads for its next-generation plant physiology platform.
 
The collaboration mainly facilitates greater efficiency in water use and enhanced photosynthesis, which can improve farms’ productivity and increase farmers’ profitability along with enhancing sustainability of agriculture globally.
 
DuPont’s fourth-quarter 2012 results, released on Jan 22, were impressive as both revenues and adjusted earnings outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimates. However, profit tumbled year over year due to higher costs and lower demand across titanium dioxide and photovoltaic markets.
 
DuPont posted adjusted earnings from continuing operations (excluding the performance coatings business) of 11 cents per share for the quarter, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a couple of cents. Net sales were essentially flat year over year at $7,325 million but exceeded the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $7,253 million.
 
DuPont continues to witness weakness across a number of end markets. DuPont is exposed to raw material cost inflation and currency headwinds and is seeing a decline in sales volumes across many segments. 
 
Nevertheless, the company is witnessing strength in its agriculture and food businesses and should continue to benefit from the synergies of Danisco acquisition. Moreover, DuPont has a healthy balance sheet and remains committed to boosting shareholder returns.
 
DuPont currently holds a short-term Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
 
Other stocks in the chemical industry worth considering are Air Products & Chemicals Inc. (APD - Analyst Report), Akzo Nobel NV (AKZOY) and Eastman Chemical Company (EMN - Analyst Report). All of them hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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