Commodities & Metals

Joy Global, Caterpillar: Is There Life in Markets for Heavy Machinery?

When Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) reported earnings in July, the company took the opportunity to cut its revenue and earnings guidance for the full fiscal year. Mining equipment maker Joy Global Inc. (NYSE: JOY) reported third fiscal quarter results Wednesday morning and reaffirmed the lowered guidance it gave at the end of the second quarter.

On the surface, Joy Global did not perform too badly. Adjusted earnings per share (EPS) came in at $1.70, well above the consensus estimate of $1.37. Revenues totaled $1.3 billion, again above estimates, but both numbers were below year-ago results.

Both companies face the same issue: inventory turnover. Caterpillar’s dealer inventories are historically low, and those dealers are restocking from the company’s distribution centers, lowering inventory even more. This translates into lower demand and a reduction in order backlog.

Joy Global has a similar problem. The company’s CEO noted it this morning:

The market has become even more challenging, with declines in order rates for both original equipment and aftermarket. The supply surplus that was centered in the U.S. coal market last year has migrated to the international markets, and they are now going through similar aftermarket corrections to that in the U.S. Based on the U.S. experience, we expect this to create headwinds for most of the next year. Although original equipment orders have always been lumpy, the uncertainty around their timing has increased. A select number of projects are continuing to move forward, but at a measured pace so they do not get ahead of the market. As a result, we expect the order rate to take a step down from our previous outlook until both demand and commodity pricing improve, but at the same time we expect the run rate to be above that of the current quarter.

Total bookings at Joy Global are down about 36% year-over-year in the third quarter, and orders for new equipment fell a whopping 76%. And the company’s assessment of the coal-mining business is not pretty:

[M]ost coal mines in the U.S. and many coal mines in Australia are operating above cash costs but below total costs. In addition, the long term expectation for commodity prices has been lowered and it limits the number of mine expansion projects that can meet updated risk-adjusted return criteria. This combination has significantly reduced customer capex spending. Our analysis indicates that customer capex spend on mining equipment is down 40 to 50 percent.

Joy Global, like Caterpillar, can only keep trying to lower its costs as the companies weather the downturn in demand for construction and mining equipment. To keep investors happy, Joy Global said it would repurchase $1 billion in stock over the next three years.

Shares of Joy Global are trading down 3.4% in Wednesday’s premarket, at $49.55 in a 52-week range of $47.83 to $69.19.

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