UPDATE 3-Ashland shares rise after profit nearly triples

* Adj fiscal Q3 EPS $1.22 vs. Street view $1.13

* Revenue up 16 percent to $2.36 bln

* Distribution unit sales up 32.2 percent

* CEO sees gradual economic growth

* Shares up 3.5 percent

(Adds conference call; updates stock)

By Ernest Scheyder

NEW YORK, July 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Ashland Inc (ASH.N: ), the
chemical maker and Valvoline brand owner, said on Friday its
quarterly profit nearly tripled, news that sent shares up 3.5
percent.

The company not only produces a wide range of chemicals,
including industrial glues, but distributes chemicals for its
rivals. Its results typically offer a key barometer on the health
of the overall chemical industry and by extension, the broader
economy.

“As we consider the next few quarters, we anticipate
sustained, gradual growth of the overall economy,” Ashland Chief
Executive Officer James O’Brien said. “We continue to see growth
in both volume and sales.”

While raw material prices were high during the period, they
hit a plateau in June, executives said on a conference call with
investors.

Ashland’s plants operated at 83 percent capacity during the
period. That’s low considering both the rebounding economy and
time of year, and executives said they’re working to bolster the
number.

Margin pressure in the company’s iconic Valvoline unit may
offset strength elsewhere, though Ashland operating leverage
should help overall results as the economy improves, Jefferies &
Co analyst Laurence Alexander said.

BY THE NUMBERS

For the third quarter ended on June 30, Ashland posted net
income of $148 million, or $1.85 per share, compared with $50
million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, including a tax benefit, the company
earned $1.22 per share. By that measure, analysts expected
earnings of $1.13, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 16 percent to $2.36 billion. Analysts expected
$2.30 billion.

The Covington, Kentucky-based company said the busy summer
driving season helped fuel a 5 percent jump in sales at the
consumer markets unit, which contains the Valvoline oil change
business.

Across the company, sales rose at three of its five units,
with sales falling only slightly at the functional ingredients
unit, which makes chemicals for paint, food and medical uses, and
the water technologies unit, which supplies materials used in
wastewater treatment

Sales at the chemical distribution unit rose 32.2 percent.

Shares rose $1.75, or 3.5 percent, to $51.23 in morning
trading. The stock has traded between $26.66 and $63.73 in the
past 52 weeks.

Stock Analysis

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Derek
Caney, Phil Berlowitz)

UPDATE 3-Ashland shares rise after profit nearly triples