Caterpillar sees 'better' 2021 as 4Q earnings drop

New York (AFP) –


Caterpillar reported a drop in fourth-quarter and annual profits Friday on broadly lower sales amid the pandemic, but said it expects an improving 2021 with global economic recovery.

The industrial giant, which manufacturers and sells equipment for the mining, construction and energy industries, sees a "better" 2021 after the hit from the coronavirus weighed on results last year, Chief Executive Jim Umpleby said on a conference call with analysts.

However, Caterpillar did not reinstate annual projections. The company withdrew its forecast in March amid the upheaval of the pandemic.

"We do expect 2021 to be better," said Umpleby, adding that the trajectory of the coronavirus remained a wild card, along with the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.

"Although we expect it to be a better year, it's difficult to quantify just how much better it will be," he added.

A company presentation highlighted sales in the construction business as an emerging strength in the first quarter of 2021.

In the fourth quarter, Caterpillar reported profits of $780 million, down 29 percent from the year-ago period. Revenues fell 14.5 percent. The results pointed to weakened demand throughout heavy industry amid shifting policies in key markets around Covid-19.

For all of 2020, Caterpillar's profit was down 50.8 percent to $3.0 billion.

Shares of Caterpillar rose 1.2 percent to $186.72 in early trading.