Governments around the world have implemented strict measures to help ‘flatten the curve', which had resulted in widespread operational shutdowns that had battered the global economy, and by extension, Caterpillar's financial results. And the worst is still expected to come.
The Deerfield, Illinois-based company has cautioned that its second quarter would be "more significantly impacted by COVID-19 than the first quarter".
Adjusted earnings for the period amounted to US$1.60 per share, compared with $2.94 a year earlier, reflecting the one-off impacts of a remeasurement gain from the settlement of a non-US pension obligation in the quarter and a tax benefit related to US tax reform in the first quarter of 2019. The result missed average Wall Street analyst forecasts calling for earnings of $1.69 per share.
Net income fell 42% year-on-year to $1.1 billion, on 21% lower revenues at $10.6 billion. The lower figure was a result of dramatic contraction in each of the company's four main business segments, with traditionally the largest segment, construction industries, raking in 27% less revenue for the period to fall behind the energy and transportation segment as the company's main source of income.
Caterpillar withdrew its full-year financial forecast in March as the COVID-19 crisis shuttered major economies and cut demand for oil and industrial metals.
The company raised $2 billion earlier this month by issuing new corporate bonds and arranged $8 billion in liquidity through additional bank facilities.
"We have taken decisive actions to enhance our strong financial position, while continuing to execute for profitable growth," said CEO Jim Umpleby. "Caterpillar has faced and overcome many challenges in our 95-year history. Our goal is to emerge from the pandemic an even stronger company."
On an earnings call Umpleby said the impact of COVID-19 had been "significantly more severe and chaotic" than any cyclical downturn management had envisioned. "The ultimate impact of the pandemic on our 2020 results remains uncertain and will be based on the duration of the virus and the magnitude of the economic impact on global demand for our products."
The company's finance arm, Caterpillar Financial, fared somewhat better given the tumultuous business environment, first first-quarter profit falling 8% year-on-year to $90 million, derived from revenue of $695 million, 6% lower than a year earlier.
Shares in Caterpillar (CAT:Nasdaq) have trended 22% lower in the year to date, taking the 12-month trend down 17% to $116.07 on Tuesday. The company has a market value of nearly $64 billion.