Hercules Inc. reported first quarter 1988 net income of $39.8 million, equal to 82 cents per share. This compares with the 1987 first quarter net income of $132.1 million, or $2.32 per share, of which $84.4 million, or $1.47 per share, was attibutable to nonrecurring items.

Operating earnings on a per-share basis for the first quarter of 1988 and 1987 were 82 cents and 85 cents, respectively.Sales for first quarter 1988 were $661.6 million compared with $667.2 million in the same period a year ago. However, the 1987 results included water-soluble polymer sales of $20 million, which are now part of The Aqualon Group, a joint-venture company.

"Based on the first quarter performance, we have achieved an important financial goal, restoring the earnings-per-share contribution lost with the sale of our share of HIMONT Inc. in September 1987," said David S. Hollingsworth, chairman.

"Even with the loss of equity income of 36 cents per share from HIMONT Inc., 1988 first quarter operating earnings on a per-share basis are nearly the same as last year's results."

Hollingsworth a number of businesses made key contributions during the first three months.

"Organics' sales increased 10 percent over the same period a year ago, and operating profit improved significantly. Both Film and Paper Chemicals continued their strong performances of last year, and Fragrance & Food Ingredients demonstrated a dramatic improvement over the first quarter of 1987. On the other hand, Fibers sales declined slightly from the first quarter a year ago, and profits were off substantially because of significantly higher raw material costs."