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Caterpillar Profit Falls on Lower Demand

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Caterpillar Inc., the maker of mining trucks and other heavy equipment, posted a lower first-quarter profit as demand fell off amid a global economy hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Deerfield, Illinois-based company today reported a quarterly profit of $1.09 billion, or $1.98 a share. That compares to a first-quarter 2019 profit of $1.88 billion, or $3.25 a share.

Excluding costs and gains the company considers one-time items, Caterpillar said it had an adjusted profit of $1.60 a share, down from $2.94 a year earlier.

Revenue for the year’s first three months declined 21 percent to $10.6 billion from $13.5 billion a year earlier.

Caterpillar’s customers include mining and construction companies. Its financial performance is a barometer of the economy generally. The manufacturer sells worldwide, including a large business in China.

About 75 percent of Caterpillar factories remained open during the first quarter during the coronavirus outbreak. Some plants that had been temporarily shut have reopened, according to the company. Caterpillar has conducted cleaning of its facilities more often and implemented changes, including stationing workers further apart.

“We remain committed to the safety, health and well-being of our employees around the world,” CEO Jim Umpleby said in a statement. “Our employees deliver products and services that enable our customers to provide critical infrastructure essential to support society during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Caterpillar last month withdrew its 2020 financial forecast. The company did not provide a new forecast in today’s earnings report.

“Our goal is to emerge from the pandemic an even stronger company,” Umpleby said.

Like other manufacturers, Caterpillar has made moves to bolster its cash supply. Caterpillar said it had $7.1 billion in cash and credit lines of $10.5 billion at the end of the first quarter. Earlier this month, the heavy-equipment maker raised $2 billion by issuing new 10-year and 30-year bonds and arranged $8 billion in new credit lines.

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