Caterpillar Earnings Dogged by Low Revenues, Weaker Outlook

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Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) reported third-quarter 2016 results before markets opened Tuesday. The heavy equipment firm posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.85 on revenues of $9.16 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported adjusted EPS of $1.05 on revenues of $10.96 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.76 and $9.87 billion in revenues. The company’s adjusted EPS excluded 2016 third-quarter restructuring charges of $0.37 a share.

Caterpillar has lowered its outlook for full-year revenues from a prior range of $40.0 billion to $40.5 billion to around $39 billion. EPS is now forecast at $3.25, excluding restructuring charges. The prior EPS estimate had been $3.55. Restructuring costs are now forecast at approximately $800 million, higher than the $700 million estimate the company gave at the end of the second quarter.

In its preliminary outlook for fiscal year 2017, Caterpillar said that “sales and revenues will not be significantly different than 2016.” Negative risk is stronger in the first half of the year, but the company said it is “encouraged that most commodity prices important to our business have improved from the lows earlier in 2016.”

Retiring CEO Doug Oberhelman said:

In the third quarter, despite a $1.8 billion decline in sales and revenues, our operating profit pull through was significantly better than our target range. Lower variable manufacturing costs of $234 million and lower period costs of $420 million enabled us to offset much of the negative impact from a weak sales environment and continue investment in products and digital capabilities. … While we are seeing early signals of improvement in some areas, we continue to face a number of challenges.  We remain cautious as we look ahead to 2017, but are hopeful as the year unfolds we will begin to see more positive momentum.  Whether or not that happens, we are continuing to prepare for a better future.

There is little in Cat’s report that provides a strong signal to buy or sell the stock. The dividend yield of 3.88% has been maintained, but there is little else either in the results or the outlook for investors to cheer.

Caterpillar’s shares traded down about 1.9% in Tuesday’s premarket trading, at $84.38 in a 52-week range of $56.36 to $89.87. The 12-month consensus price target on the stock was $79.56 ahead of this report.