Can Caterpillar Ride Out Weakness in Key Industries?

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Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) reported second-quarter 2015 results before markets opened Thursday morning. The heavy equipment firm posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.27 on revenues of $12.3 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported adjusted EPS of $1.57 on revenues of $14.15 billion. Second-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.27 and $12.62 billion in revenues. The company’s adjusted EPS does not include restructuring charges of $0.11 a share.

Caterpillar lowered its full-year sales forecast from $50 billion to $49 billion and reaffirmed its full-year EPS outlook for $5.00, excluding restructuring charges. The company expects 2015 restructuring costs to total about $250 million. Consensus estimates call for 2015 revenues of $49.19 billion and EPS of $4.97.

The company’s CEO said:

Because we serve cyclical industries, we focus intently on operational execution and cost control. This is particularly important when sales decline; our goal when sales decline is to manage costs so the decline in operating profit is less than 30 percent of the decline in sales and revenues. We did much better than that in the second quarter. We’ve achieved that by closely watching costs, the restructuring we’ve done over the past two years and the work done by Caterpillar employees across the world who are proving we can excel in this challenging economic environment.

While economic conditions in the United States are modestly positive, the global economy remains relatively stagnant. Many of the key industries we serve remain weak, and we haven’t seen sustained signs of improvement. Continuing economic weakness in China and Brazil, as well as uncertainty in the Eurozone and over Greece, haven’t helped confidence. Prices for commodities like coal, iron ore and oil are not signaling an improvement in the short term. We are committed to controlling costs as we manage through this downturn, and that will position Caterpillar for better results when conditions improve.

Caterpillar repurchased $500 million in stock during the first half of 2015, and announced its intention to buy back about $1.5 billion in stock during the third quarter.

Caterpillar’s shares were down more than 3% just after the opening bell, at $77.05, below its previous 52-week range of $78.19 to $109.73. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of $85.90 before the report.

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