Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT), the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, became the latest corporate giant to warn about the grim outlook for the global economy.
At an exhibition in Las Vegas, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman told analysts that, for 2015, the company now expects earnings of $12 to $18 per share, down from prior guidance of $15 to $20 per share. The company expects sales in 2015 to be in a range of $80 billion to $100 billion.
The guidance reduction comes just a week after FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX), another global economic bellwether, cut its expectations for first-quarter profits, citing weakness in the global economy. In July, United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE: UPS) revised its 2012 full-year profit forecast.
Shares of Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) closed down $3.86, or 4.25 percent, at $87.01 in Tuesday’s trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX: .DJI) has climbed by more than 10 percent year-to-date, whereas the shares of Caterpillar, a DJIA member, are down 4 percent for the year.
UBS maintains a “neutral” on Caterpillar and a price target of $95 per share.
The new forecast comes a year after Caterpillar paid $7.6 billion for mining equipment maker Bucyrus International, the biggest purchase in Caterpillar's 87-year history. The buyout made Caterpillar the world's largest producer of mining equipment.
In 2011, the Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar offered a very different outlook at its analyst day in Vegas. Back then, Caterpillar was cheering about the global mining boom and concerned about capacity and meeting demand.
But this year is a different story. Growth has been decelerating in some of Caterpillar’s markets, such as Europe, Australia and China.
Prices for coal and iron ore have dropped more than 20 percent this year, which prompted many of Caterpillar’s customers to rethink capital expenditures. Given the weak economy, some on Wall Street started to question the timing of the deal.
Caterpillar began exporting Chinese-made machinery earlier this summer to the Middle East and Africa as part of a plan to offset a dip in China's economic growth. So far this year, sales of excavators are down 40 percent in China.
As opposed to the majority's point of view, Caterpillar has a bullish perspective toward the Chinese economy and believes that Beijing will step up easing efforts to drive an economic rebound. And rival Joy Global Inc. (NYSE: JOY) CEO Mike Sutherlin holds a similar view.
"There are a number of geopolitical and economic factors driving uncertainty in the world today, but our base-case scenario calls for modest global economic growth over the next few years," Oberhelman said in a statement.
“Caterpillar is ready to act if we enter a recession,” Oberhelman said. “We don’t think it’s likely, but if it happens, we are prepared to react and would expect to remain attractively profitable and to maintain our dividend.”
Caterpillar is scheduled to release its third-quarter earnings results on Oct. 22.