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Deere In Headlights


Farm supplier posts solid profits, but fails to plow through estimates.


Thanks to our penchant for procreation and the resulting demand for food products (we've got to eat, right?) it's likely that the demand for things like farm equipment will remain quite strong over time.

That said, there's bound to be some bumps in the road every once in a while. Consider well-known farm equipment maker Deere (DE) and its second quarter earnings. According to Bloomberg, "Net income climbed to $763.5 million, or $1.74 a share, in the second quarter ended April 30th from $623.6 million, or $1.36, a year earlier." Analysts had been expecting the company to earn $1.75 a share. Meanwhile, its revenue line rose some 18% (from, the Deere earnings release points out, about $6.882 billion in the comparable period last year) to $8.1 billion. Finally, Deere said that its third quarter bottom line could come in between $550 million and $575 million. Analysts had been expecting $654.6 million.

What's the takeaway from all of this?

First, the bottom line number in the second quarter was indeed a little bit disappointing in that there seemed to be a feel on the Street that it was going to at least meet the estimate. The other concern is that the projection for the third quarter isn't just off by a couple of bucks. In fact, it's well below the $654.3 million number that Bloomberg quotes.

Never mind that the company also made what some might construe as an ominous comment in the outlook section of its earnings release, saying: "Escalating raw-material costs and the availability of various parts and components are expected to have an impact on operations for the balance of the year."

On the plus side, proponents will point out that Deere's sales outside the U.S. and Canada were up 46%. However, the company also said that number included "a positive currency-translation effect of 14 percent for the quarter." As per its last 10-K (see page 49), about 65% or so of Deere's total revenue in 2007 came from the U.S. and Canada. So, while its international growth is impressive, it still remains a relatively small part of the overall equation.

The last point worth noting is that these quarterly numbers may very well cause the sell-side to ratchet down its earnings estimates going forward. And if that happens it's possible that the shares could come under even more pressure.

The stock was down almost nine points on Wednesday and closed at $81.25. In after-hours trading it bounced back - by under one point.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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