Earnings improve for Ashland Inc.

COVINGTON, Ky. – Marine industry resin supplier Ashland Inc., reported net income of $33 million, or 44 cents a share, for the quarter ended March 31 – the second quarter of the company’s 2005 fiscal year – in a release yesterday.

Those results compared to a net loss of $16 million, or 23 cents a share, for the same quarter in 2004. The prior-year loss from continuing operations was $11 million, or 16 cents a share.

For the six months ended March 31, 2005, Ashland reported net income of $126 million, or $1.72 a share, compared to net income of $17 million, or 25 cents a share for the same period last year. Income from continuing operations for the first six months of the prior year was $27 million, or 39 cents a share.

“Normal seasonality makes the March quarter our most difficult earnings period,” said James J. O’Brien, Ashland Inc. chairman and chief executive officer. “We improved operating income by $76 million compared to last year’s March quarter, despite continued high raw material costs and poor weather conditions in our paving and construction operating area. Improvements from our other businesses — due in part to success in passing on the high cost of materials influenced by hydrocarbon pricing — more than offset disappointing results from our Transportation Construction Sector.”

O’Brien said the company’s Chemical Sector, which includes the Ashland Distribution, Ashland Specialty Chemical and Valvoline divisions, continues to make progress in its integration efforts. Chemical Sector operating income grew to $97 million, a 56-percent improvement compared to the previous March quarter.

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