Caterpillar boosts 2012 outlook after 2Q profit surges 67 pct on equipment demand, shares rise

Caterpillar’s second-quarter profit soared 67 per cent because of growing demand for its construction and mining equipment, and the company boosted its outlook for the year.

Shares jumped more than 4 per cent before giving up some ground to trade at US$83.01 in morning trading — a gain of $1.58 or about 2 per cent.

Caterpillar is the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, and its results are watched closely because they are considered an indicator of industrial activity and the health of the overall economy. CEO Doug Oberhelman said Caterpillar is prepared to cut costs if the economy does weaken significantly, but he remains cautiously optimistic, despite widespread fears of a slowing global economy.

“The good news is, this doesn’t feel like 2008. Interest rates are low, central banks are prepared to inject more liquidity if needed, and housing is coming off lows, not a peak, and seems to be improving,” Oberhelman said Wednesday.

Most countries are already taking the actions needed to stimulate economic growth in the future, Oberhelman said. For example, the monetary moves China is making will likely help economic growth there later this year and next year.

The Peoria, Illinois, company reported $1.7 billion in net income, or $2.54 per share, from April through June. That’s up from $1.02 billion, or $1.52 per share, a year ago. Revenue increased 22 per cent to $17.37 billion from last year’s $14.23 billion.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected Caterpillar to report earnings per share of $2.28 on $17 billion in revenue.

Caterpillar now expects earnings per share of $9.60 in 2012. That’s up from a prediction in April of $9.50 and tops analysts’ expectation of $9.54.

But the company tightened its revenue forecast for the year to between $68 billion and $70 billion from a previous prediction of between $68 billion and $72 billion. Analysts expect $69.44 billion.

Credit Suisse analyst Jamie Cook said Caterpillar delivered a phenomenal quarter. She is looking for more from executives as to what they expect for the rest of the year.

Caterpillar’s higher quarterly sales volume and prices provided a $2 billion boost, with sales rising in every region worldwide. Last year’s acquisitions of mining equipment maker Bucyrus International and engine maker MWM Holding GmbH also provided a $1.37 billion boost to sales during the quarter.

The biggest sales improvement came in North America, where sales grew 31 per cent as construction firms upgraded their aging fleets even though construction activity remained slow. Sales in Asia grew 25 per cent because increases in Australia and other countries offset a decline in China.

Caterpillar said controlling costs also helped boost profits in the quarter. The company’s costs increased about 17 per cent to $14.8 billion while revenue grew 22 per cent.

Through the first half of 2012, Caterpillar Inc. reported $3.3 billion net income, or $4.90 per share, on revenue of $33.4 billion. That’s 47 per cent higher than last year’s $2.2 billion net income, or $3.36 per share, on $27.2 billion revenue.