Caterpillar said there's a wide range in its outlook because of the high level of uncertainty in the world. It expects relatively weak growth in the U.S. economy. Growth in China will improve, but not back to the levels seen in 2010 or 2011, Caterpillar said. It expects Europe to continue to struggle.
It said first quarter revenue and profits will be "significantly lower" than the same period last year.
In the quarter ended Dec. 31, Caterpillar earned $697 million, or $1.04 per share, down from a profit of $1.55 billion, or $2.32 per share a year earlier.
The most recent quarter included a non-cash charge of 87 cents per share to write down the purchase of Zhengzhou Siwei.
Not counting the write-down and a $300 million tax benefit, Caterpillar would have earned $1.46 per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting a profit of $1.69 per share.
Revenue fell 7 percent to $16.08 billion as sales fell everywhere except Latin America.
Revenue from construction equipment fell 25 percent. But sales of mining gear â¿¿ now Caterpillar's single largest category by revenue â¿¿ grew 14 percent on improvements in all regions except North America, where coal mining is in decline.
Caterpillar's $653 million purchase of Siwei in June gave it a new business â¿¿ roofing supports for mines â¿¿ in China, the world's largest coal producer.
But on Jan. 18, Caterpillar said it had found "deliberate, multi-year, coordinated accounting misconduct" in the accounting at Siwei, and said it will write down its investment in the company by $580 million. It also said it dismissed several senior managers at the company.
Oberhelman said on a conference call that new Caterpillar managers tried to reconcile Siwei's inventory with what was on the books. They found a significant discrepancy, he said, prompting a deeper investigation.