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Dow Chemical's profit drops 50 pct

(AP) MIDLAND, Mich. - Dow Chemical's (DOW) first-quarter earnings fell 50 percent after it took a pre-tax charge of $357 million to close some of its plants.

The nation's largest chemical maker reported income of $412 million, or 35 cents per share, from January to March. That compares with $625 million, or 54 cents per share, for the same part of 2011.

Excluding restructuring costs related to the plant closures and other special items, Dow said it earned 61 cents per share. Revenue was flat at $14.7 billion.

Analysts, who typically exclude special items, expected earnings of 59 cents per share and revenue of $14.96 billion, according to FactSet.

The Midland, Mich., company has benefited from growth in emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America. But sales have weakened in Europe, where a growing debt crisis is pushing parts of the eurozone back into recession. In March, Dow decided to restructure its international business to account for the slowdown in Europe.

Dow cut 900 jobs, closed plants in Charleston, Ill., Portugal, Hungary and Brazil, and it idled operations at a plant in the Netherlands. The changes are expected to cut costs by about $250 million each year.

Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris said that Western Europe will continue to deal with "recessionary conditions" this year. The economic picture is better in the U.S., thanks to cheap natural gas prices. Natural gas prices have a huge influence on company margins because it's such a big input in the process.

China's economy appears to be moderating and Germany is showing signs of improvement, he said.

Shares of The Dow Chemical Co. fell by 59 cent to $35.49 in premarket trading.

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