* Q1 net sales up 23.6 pct to $13.23 bln vs est $13.21 bln
* Operating EPS $1.04 vs est $0.99
* Sales up in 4 of 5 units (Adds details, background on DuPont deal)
April 27 (Reuters) - Dow Chemical Co, which is merging with DuPont, reported a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit as the seeds and chemical maker benefited from its transformation into a consumer markets focused company.
Dow’s packaging, consumer care, electronics and automotive businesses have seen robust demand due to improving economic growth worldwide.
The company has been concentrating on these high-margin businesses while shedding its less-lucrative commodity units, including parts of its century-old chlorine business.
Dow said on Thursday sales rose in four of its five businesses, falling only in its agriculture unit.
Sales at Dow’s agriculture business slipped 5 percent to $1.6 billion on lower sales of herbicides and insecticides in Asia Pacific and weak demand for corn seeds in North America.
DuPont reported on Tuesday a better-than-expected quarterly profit on robust seed sales, but warned that weak demand for corn seeds would weigh on its current-quarter profit.
A shift to the more-profitable soybean among U.S. farmers is weighing on demand for corn seeds.
DuPont also said it continued to expect to close the deal with Dow Chemical in August, after repeated delays due to tough regulatory scrutiny.
The combined Dow-DuPont company will eventually be spun-off into three independent publicly traded companies, the first being called “Material Science Co”.
Net income available to Dow’s shareholders rose to $888 million, or 72 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31 from $169 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.
The year-earlier included a $778 million charge related to the settlement of a 2005 lawsuit that accused Dow and other companies of conspiring to fix prices of urethane chemicals in the preceding six years.
Excluding a $386 million arbitration-related charge in the latest quarter, operating profit was $1.04 per share, topping the analysts’ average estimate of 99 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net sales rose 23.6 percent to $13.23 billion, slightly above analysts’ estimate of $13.21 billion.
Reporting by Swetha Gopinath and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila