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Did Axiom's Gordon Johnson Call Caterpillar's Accounting Woes 2 Years Ago?

Manikandan Raman

Shares of Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) have been under pressure recently after three federal agencies raided the  company's corporate headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, last week.

Agents from the Internal Revenue Services, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and U.S. Department of Commerce carried out a search warrant for three Caterpillar facilities, including the company's corporate headquarters. The news of raid came after Caterpillar disclosed in February that the IRS proposed a $2 billion tax penalty.

A Caterpillar spokesperson told Benzinga last week “Co. Has Been In Full Cooperation, Says Caterpillar is Company With The Highest Integrity.”

Jim Umpleby, CEO of Caterpillar recently told CNBC '...we were surprised by actions of last week, because we have been cooperating with authorities - we are cooperating...we are an honorable company...we live by a code of conduct...'

Accounting Woes

But, Gordon Johnson of Axiom Capital seems to have predicted the accounting woes at Caterpillar two years prior.

Johnson said, apart from the tax and accounting fraud, Caterpillar may have engaged in a multi-year effort to stuff its dealer channel and recognize revenue on sales to itself and foreign subsidiaries with no end-user at the end of the transaction.

Is Caterpillar Another Lucent In The Making?

Johnson compared Caterpillar with Lucent in his September 2015 initiation note. Lucent was engaged in multi-year deferred repayment arrangements with customers, and tapped the debt markets to enable customer purchases which realistically did not have the means to repay Lucent, creating “at risk” revenues.

“As with any scheme of this making, when future demand is pulled forward via generous financing terms, the eventual reckoning that follows is that much more painful – one cannot create demand out of thin air, and schemes of this nature, while at times long in cycle, always end in tears,” Johnson wrote.

Based on his analysis of Caterpillar filings, the analyst said the company has engaged in similar activities to Lucent in order to make a once-in-two-decade, one-time, mining Capex bubble appear sustainable. Johnson pointed out aggressive revenue recognition as well as an unprecedented rise in inventories over the 2003-to-2014 period.

Shares of Caterpillar closed Wednesday's session down 2.8 percent at $93.23.

Related Link: Einhorn Goes Short On Caterpillar

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