Cat Purrs Abroad

The industrial bellwether reports an 11% profit jump thanks to overseas sales growth.
Publish date:

Updated from 9:58 a.m. EST

Going hungry at home,


(CAT) - Get Report

moved its fourth-quarter feast abroad.

The industrial bellwether reported an 11% jump in fourth-quarter earnings on Friday, thanks to strong growth in overseas markets. In the U.S., the company said it expects "recessionary conditions" to continue.

"A recession is defined as a broad downturn in the economy, a development that seems to be taking place," said the company in a press release, noting that economic conditions are superior in "most of the rest of the world."

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Cat reported net income of $975 million, or $1.50 a share, for the period, up from the $882 million, or $1.32 a share, it logged in the same quarter last year.

The bottom-line results were in line with expectations on Wall Street, while revenue rose 10% to $12.14 billion, beating analysts' consensus estimate of $11.79 billion, as reported by Thomson Financial.

"Our broad global footprint has enabled us to benefit from strong economic growth outside the U.S., as global markets for mining, energy and infrastructure development are booming," said Cat CEO Jim Owens. "I'm very pleased with our overall 8% growth in sales and revenues in a year when end markets in the U.S. were so weak."

With sluggish demand for new trucks in North America, Cat suffered an 11% drop in sales to $4.88 billion in the region for the quarter. Engine sales were down 23%.

"A weak U.S. economy in general and the hard-hit housing sector in particular are key negative drivers," it said.

Despite that weakness, Cat stuck by its 2008 forecast for earnings growth of 5% to 15% and revenue growth of 5% to 10%.

Part of Cat's confidence stems from its strong backlog of orders heading into 2008, which is up 20% since the end of 2006. Meanwhile, the company's continued strong performance overseas could face pressure if U.S. economic weakness begins to spill over into emerging economies that depend on exports to the world's largest consumer economy.

On a conference call with analysts, Owens conceded that the housing market in Europe has seen some deterioration, but he expressed confidence that even if the trend worsened, Cat will benefit from strong mining and oil and gas exploration in regions like Africa and the Middle East.

Shares of Cat were recently gaining $1.21, or 1.9%, to $66.46.