Deere & Company Reaps the Harvest of Growing Demand

DE stock - Deere & Company Reaps the Harvest of Growing Demand

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Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) shares had gained more than 50% over the course of the 12 months leading up to Friday’s earnings report, setting the stage for a profit-taking tumble from DE stock following the news. But, when all was said and done, the news was too good to let go of the stock now. In fact, Deere & Company stock advanced another 4% following the release of the earnings report.

Too much, and too fast? Probably. That is to say, don’t be terribly shocked if the bears push back a little within the next few days. Broadly speaking though, Friday’s buyers have good reason to be excited about the company’s foreseeable future.

DE Stock Earnings Recap

For its first fiscal quarter of the year, farm and construction implement maker Deere & Company — you may know it better as John Deere — turned $5.97 billion worth of revenue into an operating profit of $1.31 per share of DE stock. The top line was up 27% year-over-year, and the bottom line grew from a comparison of 62 cents per share. Analysts were only calling for earnings of $1.16 per share of Deere & Company stock, but were also modeling revenue of $6.4 billion.

CEO Samuel Allen commented on the first-quarter numbers. “Deere has continued to experience strong increases in demand for its products as conditions in key markets show further improvement,” he said. He added, “Sales gains for the quarter, however, were moderated by bottlenecks in the supply chain and logistical delays in shipping products to our dealers. In line with strengthening conditions, we have raised our sales and adjusted-earnings forecasts for 2018 and have confidence we will be able to fulfill the needs of our customers over the course of the year.”

Agricultural machinery revenue of $4.2 billion was up 18% YOY, on increasing demand for such equipment. However, Deere’s smaller construction equipment arm saw sales grow 57% to $1.7 billion, partially thanks to the recent acquisition of road equipment company Wirtgen.

Deere & Company hadn’t made a priority of construction machinery in the past, ceding much of that business to close-cousin Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT). The purchase of Wirtgen, however, suggests a growing interest in that market. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Karen Ubelhart commented on the shift, “The construction business is low-margin for Deere, so wasn’t meaningful to earnings in the past. But now it is.”

Looking Ahead for DE Stock

The company anticipates similar sales and earnings growth for the year ahead, including for the quarter currently underway. A statement from the company suggested sales would rise 29% this year, with equipment sales growth of between 30% and 40% in the second fiscal quarter alone. Wirtgen will account for much of that growth, driving an 80% increase in sales for the company’s construction and forestry arm. But, growing demand is also a key element to Deere’s optimistic outlook.

Demand for farm machinery has been suppressed for the past few years. This partially stems from overproduction several years ago. It’s also a result of crop prices that didn’t merit such spending. The cycle is moving in Deere’s favor again, however, with rural agricultural sentiment at its highest levels since 2014, and with farmland prices finally stabilizing. An earnings report from food-farming outfit Bunge Ltd (NYSE:BG) further suggested that the agricultural landscape was poised to look healthier later this year.

Edward Jones & Co. analyst Matt Arnold also pointed out that agricultural sentiment “can change on a dime. A weather event could prompt an upswing in grain prices and income, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen one of those.”

In the meantime, Deere’s deeper foray into the construction market may not have been better timed. The White House recently unveiled a 10-year, $1.5 trillion plan to improve the nation’s roads, waterways, bridges, electrical grid and more. Few deny that the United States’ infrastructure needs help. The matter has been heavily politicized. But with or without wholehearted support from Washington lawmakers, a robust economy will help make much-needed funding available. That bodes well for Deere & Company.

As of the latest look, analysts are looking for revenue of $31.6 billion this year, up 22% YOY. Those same pros are calling for full-year earnings of $8.40 per share, up from the $6.68 per share of DE stock booked in the previous year.

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.

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