DuPont (NYSE:DD) is a global chemical and technology conglomerate that manufactures materials used in automotive manufacturing, construction, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and electronics. In 2008, the firm generated $31.8 billion in revenue and $2 billion in net income.
Dupont has also manufactures genetically modified plants used to produce renewable energy such as ethanol and biobutanol. Rising oil prices have led to higher demand for alternative energy, and many states have started to require that ethanol be added to gasoline to reduce pollution and conserve oil. Since DuPont's acquisition of Pioneer Hi-Bred in 1999, the company has become the world's largest seed company by sales, providing genetically modified plants that produce the highest levels of corn or soybean per acreage. 
DuPont's role as a supplier leaves the company vulnerable to adverse conditions in its customers' industries- for example, declines in the automotive industry and construction industry hurt DuPont's operating margin in 2008.  Furthermore, Dupont was hit hard by the slowing world economy in 2008, seeing 2008Q4 losses of $629 million, with revenues dropping to $6.07 billion from $6.98 billion a year earlier. In response, the company laid off 6,500 workers in early 2009 and has implemented several reforms that will save $600 million in operating expenses for 2009.
In 2008, DuPont spent $1.4 billion on research and development, spending which was been fixed at 5% of net sales for the past from 2006-2008. DuPont brings more than a thousand new products to market a year.  In 2007, the company was ranked No. 1 in a Patent Board 500 ranking of patent portfolios of companies across the globe, with about 2000 new patent filings and over 20,000 patents in force worldwide.  DuPont operates more than 50 R&D centers around the world, aiming to attract the best available scientific talent and take advantage of regional knowledge necessary to create products catered to the varying needs of customers in every market with the highest concentration of research at its Wilmington, DE facilities.  DuPont's modern research concentrates on renewable bio-based materials, advanced biofuels, energy-efficient technologies, enhanced safety products, and alternative energy technologies. 
Increased demand for corn by ethanol refineries pushed corn prices to record highs in 2008. DuPont's genetically modified seeds allow farmers to grow more corn in a given acreage of land. The average yield of corn in the US is 150 bushels per acre, but DuPont aims to push the yield to 400.  US farmers increased corn plantings 19% in 2007. In addition, the percentage of genetically modified corn in the US has risen from 46% in 2004 to 61% in 2006, driving higher seed sales for Pioneer, DuPont's seed company. Pioneer is investing 9-11% of its revenue on seed research to boost corn productivity. Adverse crop prices, weather patterns, harvest strength, and pest epidemics all influence farmers' buying capacity for Dupont's products.
The rubber in engine hoses and belts, the plastics in car bumpers and under the hood, the refrigerant in the A/C and the safety membrane in the windshield are all produced by DuPont. A global decline in demand for motor vehicles, led by the near-collapse of the Big Three U.S. automakers (Ford, Daimler Chrysler, and GM), has depressed volume sales of these products. In December 2008, the Coatings & Color Technologies segment laid off 1,600 workers and closed several manufacturing units at a cost of $236 million because of declining sales.  Dupont expects this restructuring plan to cut operating costs by $140 million annually after it is completed in 2010. 
More than half of DuPont's sales are outside the US. As the dollar strengthens in comparison to other currencies, DuPont's dollar earnings decrease, as foreign customers pay in a foreign currency that has decreased in value. Between early 2008 and early 2009, the US dollar appreciated about 20% against a basket of major currencies.  While the low value of the dollar benefited Dupont in FY2008, the appreciating dollar has the potential to drag growth in FY2009.
Since DuPont uses oil as a raw material to make plastics and burns natural gas as a fuel to make its products, any significant fluctuation in oil or natural gas prices will impact the company's profits. Despite widespread commodity price increases, DuPont has actually increased margins by preemptively raising the prices for its products. In 2008, increased prices in the Agriculture and Nutrition segment contributed to a 16% increase in sales to $8 billion. However, in other cases increased raw materials costs have not been successfully passed on to the customers. In 2008 for example, the Performance Materials segment reported a 3% decrease in sales after increasing prices by 11% because of a 13% decrease in sales volume. 
DuPont's business units compete in a range of markets. The company's competitors include chemical, agricultural, and biotechnology companies. 
|R&D ($M)||R&D % Revenue||Revenue ($B)||Net income ($B)||EBITDA margin|
|DuPont||$1,393 ||5% ||$31.80 ||$2 ||13.23% |
|BASF SE (BASFY)||$1831** ||2.20%||$84**||$3.9**||26.50%|
|Bayer AG (BAYRY)||$3869**||8.10%||$48 ||$2.20 ||21.20%|
|Dow Chemical Company (DOW)||$1305* ||2.40%||$57.50 ||$0.58 ||5.68% |
|Monsanto Company (MON)||$980 ||8.6%||$11.4 ||$2.0 ||30.63% |
\*\*Company reports earnings in euros. Conversions to US dollars are based on exchange rates as of December 2008 and provided for reference only.