Deere's Earnings, Outlook Can't Escape Economic Uncertainty

Paul Ausick

Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) reported third-quarter fiscal 2019 results before markets opened Friday. The farm and heavy equipment maker posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $2.81 on revenues of $10.04 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $2.78 on revenues of $10.31 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates for EPS of $2.85 and $9.39 billion in revenues.

Net income in the quarter totaled $899 million, compared with net income of $910 million in the year-ago quarter. Excluding favorable effects related to changes in U.S. tax law, third-quarter 2018 adjusted EPS totaled $2.71 on net income of $867 million. For the fiscal year to date, the company’s net unfavorable provisional tax expense totaled $741 million.

Investors are likely to focus Friday on changes to the company’s outlook for the 2019 fiscal year. Including sales at Wirtgen (acquired in December 2017), Deere now forecasts equipment sales up 4% year over year in 2019, down from the forecast for 5% growth made at the end of the prior quarter. Deere’s original projection called for growth of 7% year over year. The company’s net sales and revenues are now forecast to rise by 5% in 2019, unchanged since the second quarter but down from an original projection of 7%.

Currency exchange effects are tabbed to snip 2% from revenues, and net income is now forecast at around $3.2 billion for the full year, down from $3.3 billion in the prior quarter and $3.6 billion at the beginning of the year. Currency exchange effects have improved by one percentage point compared to the prior quarter’s estimate.

For the first three quarters of its 2019 fiscal year, equipment sales of $26.18 billion, compared with equipment sales of $25.01 billion (including Wirtgen sales) in the prior-year period.

For the full fiscal year, analysts had forecast EPS of $10.22 on sales of $34.9 billion, somewhat below Deere’s estimate for 5% sales growth. The company did not provide a forecast for its fourth fiscal quarter, but analysts are looking for EPS of $2.29 and sales of $8.19 billion.

Board Chair and CEO Samuel R. Allen said:

John Deere’s third-quarter results reflected the high degree of uncertainty that continues to overshadow the agricultural sector. Concerns about export-market access, near-term demand for commodities such as soybeans, and overall crop conditions, have caused many farmers to postpone major equipment purchases. At the same time, general economic conditions remain positive and are contributing to strong results for Deere’s construction and forestry business. … In spite of present challenges, the long-term outlook for our businesses remains healthy and points to a promising future.

The construction and forestry segment has posted year-to-date sales of $8.27 billion, a boost of 11% compared to the first nine months of last year. Of that increase, 6% is down to two additional months of Wirtgen sales. The segment also benefited from higher prices and higher shipment volumes.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund cut its global GDP growth forecast for the year from 3.3% to 3.2% and its forecast for next year from 3.6% to 3.5%. Deere’s outlook relies on a four-point contribution from a full-year of Wirtgen sales. Overall, that’s not a lot for investors to get excited about.

Shares of Deere traded down about 2.7% at $139.80 in the premarket Friday. The stock’s 52-week range is $128.32 to $171.22, and the consensus 12-month price target was $167.06 before the report, and the high target was $190.00.