Caterpillar Slashes Guidance Following Another Round of Weak Results

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Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) reported third-quarter 2013 results before markets opened Wednesday morning. For the quarter, the heavy equipment firm posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.45 on revenues of $13.42 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $2.54 on revenues of $16.45 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for $1.67 EPS and $14.32 billion in revenues.

As weak as those numbers are, the forecast for the full year is even weaker. After revising guidance downward at the end of the second quarter, Caterpillar has lowered it again. The prior range for revenues of $56 billion to $58 billion has been cut to $55 billion. The prior EPS estimate of $6.50 has been cut to $5.50. Originally the company had forecast EPS of $7.00 on revenues of $57 billion to $61 billion.

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The current consensus estimate for $6.20 in EPS on revenues of $56.46 billion in revenues likely will take another hit today, as will the company's share price.

The company's CEO said:

This year has proven to be difficult, with expected sales and revenues nearly $11 billion lower than last year. That is a 17 percent decline from 2012, with about 75 percent of the drop from Resource Industries, which is principally mining. We expect Resource Industries to be down close to 40 percent for the full year and Power Systems' and Construction Industries' sales to each be down about 5 percent.

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Caterpillar provided preliminary guidance for 2014 when it said it "expects better world growth." But rising mine production has not translated into new equipment orders, and the company's operating profit depends on sales of high-margin mining equipment. Thus, Caterpillar says that 2014 is expected to look like its latest revisions to 2013 guidance: revenues and profits will remain flat, plus or minus 5%. The estimates include a forecast for a continued decline in sales mining equipment.

The company did buy back $1 billion worth of shares in the third quarter, but it did not say it planned to continue the purchases. At the end of the second quarter, Caterpillar said it had $2.7 billion left in its share buyback program.

Caterpillar shares were down about 3.6% in premarket trading, at $85.98 in a 52-week range of $79.49 to $99.70. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $92.20 before this report.

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