By John D. Stoll
The Peoria, Illinois, company said it expects full-year 2011 profit and revenue to be at the top end of its previous outlook range due to strong demand. In 2012, the company sees revenue increasing 10 percent to 20 percent above the $58 billion in sales it expects this year, although it continues to make contingency plans for a potential downturn.
Caterpillar said it ended the third quarter in one of the healthiest positions in its recent history. Backlog orders standing at record levels and higher commodity prices leading to a favorable environment for its growing mining business. The company expects to post record results in 2011 and improve on those results next year.
Construction activity is increasing in developing markets, while buyers in more mature markets -- such as the United States -- are buying new machinery in order to replace aging fleets rather than investing for growth. Equipment-rental operators are also purchasing new equipment in order to freshen their fleets, the company said.
Caterpillar's shares traded significantly higher in Monday's session, leading an overall rally in the market. The stock gained about 6.3 percent, or $5.45, to $92.84 on the New York Stock Exchange.
SLOW-GROWTH ECONOMY SEEN
Caterpillar reported third-quarter earnings that far exceeded expectations http://link.reuters.com/byj64s
The world's largest heavy machinery manufacturer is one of a slate of industrial companies outpacing analyst expectations during the current earnings reporting season. Like some of its peers, the company is encouraged by the strong results even as it remains cautious about the wider economy due to mixed economic data and tightening in key growth markets, such as China.
"Although there is a good deal of economic and political uncertainty in the world, we are not seeing it much in our business at this point," Caterpillar Chief Executive Doug Oberhelman said in a press release. "We believe continued economic recovery, albeit a slow recovery, is the most likely scenario as we move forward."
Caterpillar's outlook indicates the company is successfully "coming to grips with a slower global economy," Longbow Research equity analyst Eli Lustgarten said. Caterpillar is able to succeed in the cloudy environment due to "very big growth outside of the United States and what's been a very strong (machinery) replenishment rate in the U.S.," he said.
The company was able to outpace analyst expectations during the third quarter due to considerably higher revenue, much of which came from the rebuilding of inventory as dealers looked to build stock. Analysts continue to express concern over the health of the so-called end users of Caterpillar products.
Caterpillar said heavy machinery supplies would likely remain "tight" in 2012, and the company plans to continue increasing production levels for many of its products. "We are making strategic investments in our business to position Caterpillar for continued success well beyond 2012," Oberhelman said.
In 2012, Caterpillar expects to achieve sales increases in mature markets, up from what it currently views as "low levels" of sales activity. Growth in emerging markets next year is expected to keep pace with the rate seen in 2011.
The company did caution that it is seeing a bit of a slowdown in China's demand levels due to measures the government is taking to tighten the economy. Caterpillar executives, speaking on a conference call, said the slowdown is needed and indicated the company continues to build market share in that market.
Caterpillar reported third-quarter net income attributable to common shareholders of $1.14 billion, or $1.71 per share, compared with $792 million, or $1.22 per share, a year ago.
Analysts on average had expected Caterpillar to earn $1.54 per share in the third quarter.
Sales rose 41 percent to $15.7 billion, which is a record, according to the company.
The company noted that operating cash flow in its Machinery and Power Systems business nearly doubled over the first three quarters compared with the same period in 2010.
Caterpillar said full-year 2011 results would come in at the highest end of its previous outlook. It now expects annual revenue of $58 billion, including its acquisition of the Bucyrus mining business this year. Its previous forecast had been a range of $56 billion to $58 billion.
Profit is now expected to be $6.75 per share for the year, compared with a prior forecast of $6.25 to $6.75. Including the impact of Bucyrus, Caterpillar expects 2011 profit to reach $7.25 per share.
The company said 2011 will be a record year if it hits its earnings and revenue expectations.
Caterpillar said it added 4,800 jobs during the quarter, including 2,000 in the United States.
(Reporting by John D. Stoll in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Maureen Bavdek and Gunna Dickson)