After the bell on Thursday, we learned the disappointing news of DowDuPont (DWDP) expecting first quarter 2019 net sales to be down high-single digits percent (previous guidance was for down mid-single digits percent) and expects operating EBITDA to be down high-teens percent (previous guidance was for down low-teens percent) compared to the same quarter of last year. It is another round of disappointment for the company and it follows the miserable guidance management offered with its fourth quarter earnings release in January.
In Agriculture, the horrific flooding in the Midwestern region of the United States has caused transportation disruptions throughout the region, limiting product delivery and delaying pre-season application. It was an event that was out of the control of the company, and due to this, net sales for the first quarter of 2019 are expected to be down 4% to 6% and Operating EBITDA is expected to be down $125 million to $150 million compared to the same quarter last year.
In Materials Science, or New Dow, which we remind you will be spinning off as Dow Inc. next Tuesday, April 2nd, net sales are expected to be down low-teens percent compared to previous guidance of down high-single digits percent and operating EBITDA is expected to be down mid-20s percent compared to previous guidance of down low-20s percent. The midpoint of the updated guidance results in approximately $100 million lower operating EBITDA compared to previous guidance, driven primarily by the Packaging and Specialty Plastics business which experienced greater than expected margin compression. It appears that de-stocking issues are lingering here as DowDuPont could not fully capitalize on oil's biggest quarterly gain since 2009. But the de-stocking should prove temporary in nature, meaning that better times for the division will most certainly be ahead.
Importantly, Specialty Products is expected to be in-line with previous guidance, and we continue to find this portfolio intriguing from a value creation perspective through additional divestments.
Shares are trading roughly 1.5% to 2% lower this morning at the time this was written. All considering, this mild reaction is likely due to the market already having low expectations in the stock. Indeed, this is another undesirable outcome for DowDuPont, but it appears the issues this quarter (weather, macro environment, etc.) were mostly out of management's control, though that does absolve them. Even though our recent views have been wrong thus far, we do think it is wrong to sell the stock just a few days before next week's big spinoff because the event is when investors should finally see the value that has been created from the Dow-DuPont merger and subsequent separations. The New Dow is expected to be a premier chemical company and will offer investors substantial capital returns via dividends and buybacks at its inception. We just have to wait a little longer with the company's business cycle to improve. We will publish a deep dive of the New Dow on Monday with updated price targets on both the parent and child company to account for the spin.
In other news, it has been a volatile two weeks for Viacom (VIAB) . After dropping on fears that AT&T (T) was going to drop the Viacom family of channels from Direct-TV, shares strongly rebounded this Monday when the two companies avoided a programming blackout and agreed to a new deal. With a deal in hand, we discussed how this cleared a huge overhang that had pressured the stock, paving the way for investors buying back in with less risk. We spoke to our interest of buying the stock in our Daily Rundown here.
The very next day, shares stormed even higher after the New York Post reported that CBS (CBS) and Viacom had resumed merger talks according to sources. Then the stock found additional lift when management reaffirmed guidance for full year domestic affiliate revenue growth through a regulatory filing, meaning that whatever type of sweetheart deal management gave AT&T was already included in previous guidance and the company will make their numbers in this division.
Our views were shared by Loop Capital Markets this morning, as analysts upgraded their rating on the stock to a Buy and increased their price target to $35 from $33. They pointed out how losing AT&T coverage was the biggest risk Viacom faced, and now that the company has moved past this, a merger with CBS has become likely. "Given the limited downside, high likelihood in our opinion of a catalyst, and the positive risk/reward," they wrote, "we are raising our rating to Buy from Hold."
Even with today's move higher, we are interested in adding to our position when we are not restricted from doing so. We continue to see two ways to win with VIAB: Either from multiple expansion because the company has proved it can successfully negotiate its carriage deals, or a merger catalyst with CBS.