Caterpillar profit drops on weak demand for heavy equipment

Caterpillar Inc , the world's largest maker of construction equipment, reported a 55 percent drop in quarterly profit on Monday as customers sold off existing inventories rather than buy new machines.

For the fourth quarter, the company posted net income of $697 million, or $1.04 per share, compared with $1.55 billion, or $2.32 per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue fell 7 percent to $16.08 billion.

Caterpillar expects to earn $7 to $9 per share in 2013.

Earlier this month Caterpillar said it discovered accounting fraud at a Chinese coal mining supplier it bought in 2012. Caterpillar wrote down most of the $650 million deal, zapping fourth-quarter results by 87 cents per share.

(Reporting By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)