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Caterpillar Profit Rises Despite Lower Revenue

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Caterpillar Inc. today reported higher fourth-quarter profit as expense controls made up for lower revenue.

The Deerfield, Illinois-based maker of earthmoving machines and heavy equipment also warned of “continued global economic uncertainty” in 2020.

Caterpillar’s quarterly profit totaled almost $1.1 billion, or $1.97 a share. That was up from $1.05 billion, or $1.78, for the same period in 2018. Revenue for the quarter slid to $13.1 billion from $14.3 billion a year earlier.

Adjusted profit per share, which excludes some costs, was $2.63 a share for the quarter, up from $2.55 for the same period in 2018.

“In the fourth quarter, strong cost control more than offset lower-than-expected end-user demand,” CEO Jim Umpleby said in a statement. The results, he said, “reflected our diligent focus on maintaining a flexible and competitive cost structure.”

Caterpillar’s customers include mining and construction companies. Its financial performance is a barometer of economy generally. It sells worldwide, including a large business in China. That means Caterpillar is in the middle of global trade tensions.

The company forecast 2020 adjusted profit of $8.50 to $10 a share, compared with an average analyst estimate of $10.63 a share, according to Reuters.

“We expect continued global economic uncertainty to pressure sales to users in 2020,” Umpleby said.  “We have improved our lead times and remain prepared to respond quickly to any positive or negative changes in customer demand.”

For all of 2019, profit fell slightly to $6.09 billion from $6.15 billion. On a per-share basis, however, profit rose to $10.74 in 2019, up from $10.26 the previous year. The company has been repurchasing shares, reducing the number of shares outstanding. Revenue slid to $53.8 billion from $54.7 billion in 2018.

Adjusted profit per share for the year totaled $11.06 a share, down from $11.22 a share the year before.

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