* CEO wants to ‘unlock’ unit’s value
* Agricultural unit kept company afloat in Q1
* Rohm & Haas loan will be paid off soon
* Shares up 2.7 percent
By Ernest Scheyder
NEW YORK, Sept 16 – Dow Chemical Co <DOW.N> plans to hold onto its agricultural business for now and hopes to pay off debt from its April buyout of Rohm & Haas very soon, Chief Executive Andrew Liveris said on Wednesday.
Liveris was backing away from statements earlier this year that Dow might spin off the fast-growing unit, sell it, or team up with another agricultural company in order to cut its debt from the Rohm & Haas purchase.
"Unlocking the value of Dow AgroSciences has always been on our radar screen," Liveris said at the Credit Suisse Chemical and Agricultural Science Conference. "We will not let that value go out the door."
The unit has the potential to be a big player in an industry dominated by Monsanto Co <MON.N>, so a sale or spinoff just does not make sense right now, he said.
"Everyone wants to be the next Monsanto," Liveris said. "We want our current shareholders to benefit."
Dow AgroSciences, which makes genetically modified seeds, herbicides and pesticides, has seen explosive growth in recent years, helping to bolster its parent’s overall performance.
Midland, Michigan-based Dow would not have made a profit in the first quarter if not for the agricultural unit.
In recent months, rumors have swirled that Switzerland’s Syngenta <SYNN.VX> or China National Chemical Corp [CNNCC.UL] might be interested in the unit.
Meanwhile, Liveris said Dow would fully pay off the loan from its more than $16 billion purchase of Rohm & Haas Co once it completes the sale of its Morton Salt and Optimal businesses.
The company has said in the past it expects those deals to close by the end of the year.
Shares of Dow were up 70 cents, or 2.7 percent, at $26.53 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading. The stock price has ranged from $5.89 to $39.99 in the past 52 weeks.