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DowDuPont's Andrew Liveris: We were 80-90% right about transition plan

  • DowDuPont on Tuesday announced changes to its plan to break into three separate companies.
  • Activist investors had pushed for the company to move more of its business into its specialty chemicals division.
  • DowDuPont's Andrew Liveris said the company had gotten its plan mostly right, but made adjustments after listening to investors.

DowDuPont Executive Chairman Andrew Liveris on Tuesday said the chemicals and agriculture giant mostly got its transition plan right, but made adjustments after listening to investors.

DowDuPont, which was formed when chemical giants Dow Chemical and DuPont merged earlier this month, said on Tuesday it was making changes to its initial plans on how it would split up the company post merger.

The companies made the decision after a quartet of high-profile activist investors pushed for change. However, they suggested they did not alter their plan simply due to that pressure, but after receiving feedback from a broad swath of investors and conducting a months-long review process with consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

"We were about 80, 90 percent right the first time around, but ... we listened to investors. We did our work, and these actually create game-changing, market-driven companies in the future," Liveris told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

At issue was how the company would break down the combined company into three separate firms: agriculture, materials science and specialty products. The company now plans to move businesses totaling more than $8 billion in annual sales from its materials science division to the specialty-chemical unit.

The change announced on Tuesday roughly aligns with some of the activists' suggestions.

Daniel Loeb's Third Point said in May that DowDuPont was potentially leaving $20 billion on the table, in part by pushing too many products into the materials division.

DowDuPont CEO Ed Breen acknowledged the pressure from activists but said the company had always intended to perform a portfolio review.

"The beauty of the last 20 months is we've had a lot of investor feedback," he told "Squawk on the Street."

"We've had our own study of the portfolio, and as time went on we just kept realizing there are so many identical end markets between material co and specialty co, and if we could align them better and really put the right end markets together, the power with our customer base would be enormous."

With the transition plan decided, DowDuPont will now turn its attention toward how it will return cash to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks, Breen said.

"Both companies are very dividend-friendly companies," before the merger, he said. "You can expect that these boards are going to act the same way when it comes to a dividend moving forward."

Investors should expect news about share repurchases in the coming months, he added.

Ed Breen will speak at 11:30 a.m. ET at CNBC and Institutional Investor's Delivering Alpha Conference.

— Reuters contributed to this story.