Why Caterpillar Blew Through Estimates, Raised Guidance

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) reported first-quarter 2018 results before markets opened Tuesday. The heavy equipment firm posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $2.82 on revenues of $12.9 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported adjusted EPS of $1.28 on revenues of $9.8 billion. First-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates for EPS of $2.07 and $11.93 billion in revenues.

The sharp jump in revenues was attributed to higher sales volume driven by increased demand across all the company’s regions and most markets along with favorable changes in dealer inventories. North American sales rose 33% and Asia/Pacific sales rose 44%, while Europe/Africa/Middle East sales were up 25% and Latin American sales rose 24%.

Operating profit rose from $380 million a year ago to $2.11 billion, due primarily to higher sales volume and lower restructuring costs. In the first quarter of last year, restructuring costs totaled $723 million, compared to $69 million in the 2018 first quarter.

CEO Jim Umpleby said:

Based on our strong first-quarter results and higher demand across all regions and most end markets, we are raising our outlook for 2018. We will continue to make targeted investments in expanded offerings and services, consistent with our strategy for long-term profitable growth.

For the 2018 fiscal year, Caterpillar raised its profit outlook from a prior range of $7.75 to $8.85 per share to a new range of $9.75 to $10.75 per share. On an adjusted basis, EPS guidance was raised from a range of $8.25 to 9.25 to a new range of $10.25 to $11.25 per share. Estimated restructuring costs were left unchanged at $400 million. Higher sales volume and improved pricing are the primary drivers of the raised estimates.

The company’s forecast does not include any potential impacts from future geopolitical risk or trade restrictions. While Caterpillar may choose not to speculate, the same may not be true of analysts.

Analysts have estimated second-quarter revenues at $13.26 billion and EPS at $2.42. For the full year, the consensus estimates called for EPS of $9.17 and sales of $51.07 billion

At the end of the first quarter, Caterpillar’s order backlog totaled about $17.5 billion. This represents a sequential increase of about $1.7 billion.

Caterpillar’s shares traded up nearly 4% in premarket trading to $160.02, in a 52-week range of $97.74 to $173.24. The 12-month consensus analyst price target was $178.39 ahead of this morning’s report.