Financial Research Report This Is a Review Essay

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Financial Research Report

This is a review of Caterpillar, Inc.. The report is broken down into three sections -- company overview, ratio analysis (which includes a trend analysis), stock price analysis -- that are designed to give a thorough overview of the complete company.

Company Overview

Caterpillar is one of the best known name brands, around the world for its manufacture of heavy machinery made, primarily, for the construction industry. The company began operations in 1925 under the name Caterpillar after a merger was formed between Holt Manufacturing and C.L. Best Tractor (USSEC, 2011). The company has set the standard in its industry becoming the largest manufacturer of hauling machines in the world.

Caterpillar operates primarily as a manufacturer of heavy equipment, but, with the realization that they needed to be able to finance purchases of their products and help maintain them, the company has also diverged into financial services and insurance. Caterpillar just recently began a program that they have called Vision 2020 which looks at what the company is right now, who they would like to become and how they can get there. The primary objectives of the plan are geared toward: "Delivering superior results [to shareholders]; Developing the best team of people; and, Becoming the global leader everywhere we do business" (Caterpillar, 2011a). This vision is the driving force behind the company and its operations.

The offices that Caterpillar maintains are of three primary types. First, the company has its major manufacturing centers scattered around the world so that they will be "close to buyers" (Caterpillar, 2011a). The second types of facilities that Caterpillar maintains are distribution centers that are set up in regional areas around the world. The company also has dealers that specifically sell its products. These dealers many times operate directly from either manufacturing or distribution facilities, but Caterpillar has also chosen to work some areas with just a dealership that has no product, but does have the ability to work with buyers in purchasing or leasing Caterpillar equipment. The facilities are maintained in 180 different countries and 500 locations throughout the world (Caterpillar, 2011a).

The company has always been a manufacturer of heavy equipment, but since it has gotten involved in financing and insurance for those products, Caterpillar has entered new markets. The goal is to become a company that allows customers to shop in one place for all of their equipment needs, but there are competitors in all of the markets that Caterpillar occupies. Most major insurance companies have a division that deals with construction equipment, so Caterpillar faces extreme competition in this arena. Its financial business competes with banks and other heavy equipment manufacturers, but Caterpillar is well poised since it is the largest manufacturer and maintains a growing $770 billion business (Caterpillar, 2011a). However, the primary market/line of business remains heavy equipment and, to some extent, smaller tractors. The main industries serviced by Caterpillar equipment is in the "agricultural, demolition & scrap, forestry, general construction, governmental/defense, heavy construction, industrial, landscaping, marine, mining, oil & gas, paving, pipeline, power generation, quarry & aggregates, and waste" (Caterpillar, 2011a).

Ratio Analysis

Trends can be difficult to spot when a company has only had a small amount of time in an industry, but since Caterpillar has been a viable company for greater than 85 years, it is easier to see what has happened with the business. However, this analysis will occur with trends over the past five years (2006-2010) only. The specific factors examined are current and fixed assets, current and long-term liabilities, owner's equity, sales revenue, EBIT, net income and the company's earnings per share.

A quick glance at a table containing all of this information shows a slight downward trend from 2006 through the end of 2008, but there was a marked decrease in all ratios in 2009 (the company did recover significantly in 2010). Currently Caterpillar has current assets of $27 billion and total assets of $62 billion. This comes from both current and fixed assets which sets up a positive ration for the company which it has maintained for the past five years. Caterpillar has current liabilities of $19 billion and total liabilities of $55 billion. The current ratio has remained slightly positive for all five years investigated (1.15, 1.19, 1.24, 1.43, 1.44). All of the ratios indicate that Caterpillar is in a good financial position, but the last two indicate that the company will have no issues meeting short-term obligations. This is probably due to the fact that most companies have been streamlining operations in the past two years and trying to divest themselves of as many liabilities as possible. Caterpillar is more a slave to economies than other businesses because the products they sell require a great amount of capital on the part of buyers. Therefore, Caterpillar has obviously adjusted to the financial malaise and strengthened its overall position (Caterpillar, 2009).

Caterpillar saw sales income increase slightly in every division from 2006 until 2008, but, again, in 2009 there was a significant decrease. Especially in the machinery division, Caterpillar where the company's revenue decreased by almost half. In 2010 the company realized a resurgence in its revenue as companies around the world began building again, and buying CAT equipment. This can be seen in a decrease in sales growth in 2009 of almost 40% and resurgence in 2010 of just over 31%. Of course the EBIT should follow a similar course. The EBIT data actually show a troubling trend beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2009 when the ratio reached its lowest point. However, it is obvious from the large recovery (from a 2009 ratio of -87.36 to a positive ratio in 2010 of 559.05) that Caterpillar was able to significantly cut its operating expenses. This, in effect, increased the financial solvency of the company. Net income also matched the fall and then the rise of the EBIT. It seems that most ratios (except for Earnings per share of stock was approximately 5.5 for 2006-2008, dipped to around 1.5 in 2009, and recovered to just over 4 in 2010 (Caterpillar, 2009).

Stock Price Analysis

Stock price for Caterpillar, Inc. was measured against the S & P. 500 Index from October 2007 until September 2011 (Caterpillar, 2011b). This is a five-year period that marks one of the most volatile in the history of the stock market, thus it is easy to see why people have taken a large amount of money out of the market. However, there are some companies which through sound financial management have either maintained or recovered their value (Caterpillar, 2011b).

Caterpillar is typical of a large manufacturing concern which is heavily invested in such activities as construction. Since late 2007, the construction market in most areas of the world has seen a sharp decline. Governments, companies and individuals have not had to the capital required to either build, expand, or in some cases even maintain construction and this has hurt many companies. Caterpillar makes products which are involved in everything from heavy to small commercial construction projects, so it makes since that they would have seen a sharp decline. Of course, as can be seen from the information preceding, this has not been the case. Caterpillar did see sharp declines during 2009, but the company has maintained a relatively high EBIT which means that the company's financial position has remained very stable. This speaks to the superior management which operates the company. Although Caterpillar is in an industry which has seen significant problems over the past three years, they have maintained a positive dividend and the company has been able to remain strong. Because of the ratios which show superior management, a strong worldwide position which negates trouble in regions or even large portions of the world as long as construction remains strong in some…

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