Caterpillar chief executive officer Doug Oberhelman stood by mining and his companies’ decision to invest in the sector with an $8.8 purchase of Bucyrus International in 2011, despite a forecasted reduction of 50 percent in new mining equipment sales.
Caterpillar reported that its earnings fell by 45 percent and revenue dropped 17 percent in the first quarter of 2013, both below analysts’ expectations. Caterpillar also lowered its sales and profit forecasts, largely because of soft conditions in the mining business and aggressive destocking by Caterpillar dealers.
However, The Associated Press reported that Oberhelman did not waiver on his commitment to mining while speaking with analysts following the disappointing report. “We’re definitely in a down cycle right now, but long term it’s a great business for us,” he said. “I still firmly believe that what we’ve done the last few years is really changing the company for the better.”
Sales of Caterpillar’s mining equipment dropped 23 percent in the quarter from a year earlier to $3.67 billion, while operating profit from mining equipment dropped 59 percent to $477 million.
The Bucyrus deal was the largest acquisition in Caterpillar’s history and expanded its mining products to include shovels and underground-mining equipment to go along with the company’s giant haul trucks and other large earth-moving machinery used in mining.
The global mining boom helped Caterpillar rebound quickly from the 2008 recession, offsetting weak market conditions in the company’s traditional construction markets. But mine operators recently have pulled back on purchases of equipment and shelved expansion projects in response to lower prices for commodities such as coal.
Oberhelman predicted the market will rebound as economic growth accelerates.
Caterpillar forecast that sales of Bucyrus machinery will decline 15 percent this year, while sales of big mining trucks and other mining machinery traditionally built by Caterpillar are expected to fall 50 percent from 2012.
Caterpillar said it now expects revenue this year of $57 billion to $61 billion, down from its previous forecast of $60 billion to $68 billion. The company said it anticipates a profit of $7 a share this year, down from the $7 to $9 a share it predicted earlier. Wall Street analysts had expected the company to earn $7.68 a share on revenue of $62.6 billion.