DuPont hits 19-year high on Dow deal hopes

DuPont Co. shares topped $80 a share in midday trading today for the first time since 1998 after Bloomberg LP said the European Union is speeding DuPont's planned merger with Dow Chemical Co. toward approval in March.

Support in Europe, plus expected approvals by regulators in the U.S., China, Brazil and other key nations, would allow the companies to combine on schedule this year, cut duplicate managers, factories and contractors, and prepare planned spin-offs of Dow and DuPont's united agricultural, materials and specialty units into separate publicly-traded companies.

The Europeans had expressed concern that Dow-DuPont would cut back on research and new products, pushing up pesticide and seed prices for farmers.

To ease that concern, DuPont has promised to seek buyers for some of its pesticide units, in a bid to encourage competition.

To counter concerns by farm-state U.S. Senators, lobbyists for the deal have said the U.S. ought to have a big pesticide company that would compete with European and Asian conglomerates.

The ag and specialty companies are to be headquartered in Delaware, which passed laws shaving millions off DuPont's annual taxes to entice the companies to stay. The materials company, including most of Dow's non-farm businesses, would be based at Dow headquarters in Midland, Mich.