Deere & Co profits up but outlook guarded

 
City A.M. Reporter
DEERE & Co reported a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday as sales of its biggest and most profitable tractors and harvesters in North America offset poor demand in Europe.

But the world's largest maker of farm equipment offered a cautious preliminary forecast for 2011 that fell short of expectations.

In light trading on Wall Street ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, investors seemed to focus on the positive, sending the company's shares higher.

Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services and co-portfolio manager of the GMG Defensive Beta Fund, called Deere's fourth-quarter results "impressive."

He said he remained optimistic about the company's prospects, despite its guarded outlook, based on its growing business in India and signs of a rebound in its construction and forestry equipment business.

The Moline, Illinois-based company reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $457m (£287m), or $1.07 a share, compared with a net loss of $222.8m, or 53 cents a share, a year earlier.
Sales rose 35 per cent to $7.2bn.

Analysts on average expected Deere to report a profit of 95 cents a share on sales of $6.25bn, according to Thomson Reuters.

The company, which also makes equipment used by builders and foresters, said those sales, which tumbled after the financial crisis, rebounded 75 per cent during the quarter from record lows.

The company's agricultural equipment line contributed most to the quarterly results. Deere said sales to the U.S. farm sector included "a highly favorable sales mix of larger equipment."

Looking forward to 2011, Deere said environmental regulations and higher costs could make the year a tricky one.

Deere also said it expects higher raw-material costs in 2011 and a less favorable sales mix in its flagship farm division.

As a result, it said it expects a full-year 2011 profit of $2.1bn. Analysts on average expected $2.42bn, according to Thomson Reuters.

The forecast "reflects the complexity of transitioning to these new equipment models as well as increased product costs to comply with the regulations," the company said in a statement.