Is The Dow Chemical Company (DOW) a Buy?

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Over the past decade the stock of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) is up by just 10%. That’s it, that’s not on an annualized basis, but 10 years ago today the stock sat just 10% below today’s price. Sure, the company has consistently paid a dividend along the way, though it was cut during the financial crisis, but this certainly wasn’t the type of return investors were expecting. With a history of underperformance, is that enough of a reason to beware and stay away from The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW)’s stock or are there enough compelling reasons to buy?

Why you should buy
To good news for potential investors is that there are several catalysts on the horizon. First, the company recently received $2.2 billion in damages from its failed joint venture in Kuwait. The company sees this as its final step in returning its dividend to pre-recession levels.

In addition to that, The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) of today is a much stronger company with a solid balance sheet and a business that generated $4 billion in cash from operations last year. Dow believes it can generate $25 billion in cash from operations over the next five years which will further strengthen its balance sheet, afford it to fund organic growth opportunities, and raise that dividend on its stock to pre-recession levels and beyond.

Growth opportunities abound and, because of the low price of natural gas in the U.S., The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) has been spending billions to build out its ability to use of natural gas as a feed stock. In addition to this opportunity to grow its petrochemicals business, the company sees a bright future in agriculture. To take advantage of what it’s seeing, Dow has been investing 30% of its R&D budget into its agricultural sciences division in order to better compete with Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) and E I Du Pont De Nemours And Co (NYSE:DD). The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) certainly needs to invest to keep up as those other two companies recently settled a long-standing legal battle which should lead to more collaboration between the two. Dow’s ability to grow in this key industry could really lift its stock in the future.

Freeport, Texas, petrochemical plant. Image source: Dow Chemical.

Why you should beware
Despite all of those positives, The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) is not out of the woods just yet. The company has been engaged in a very public battle to limit natural gas exports. Increasingly, the tide seems to be turning in favor of its chief advisor, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), which apparently can now count President Obama as being on its side. As an investor, one has to question whether this public debate might end up costing this company, and its stockholders, more than just cheap natural gas.

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