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Deere Earnings May Be a Case Study in Managing Expectations

Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) reported third-quarter fiscal 2015 results before markets opened Friday. The farm and heavy equipment maker posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.53 on revenues of $7.59 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported adjusted EPS of $2.33 on revenues of $8.72 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.44 and $7.17 billion in revenues.

As in the prior quarter, the company easily beat modest expectations, while the year-over-year drop in revenues and profits continues. Deere has managed analysts’ and shareholders’ expectations about as well as a company can when market headwinds get stiffer. The company has beaten analysts’ estimates for earnings in each of the past five quarters, and this most recent beat of 5.9% is identical with that in the third quarter of 2014. And even though revenues are falling, the company manages to beat estimates there as well.

For the first nine months of Deere’s fiscal year, net sales have dropped 18% to $22.15 billion, and EPS is down from $6.79 in the first nine months of fiscal 2014 to $4.67 this year. Net income is down from $2.51 billion to $1.59 billion, a drop of nearly 37%.

The company’s CEO said:

John Deere’s third-quarter results reflected the continuing impact of the downturn in the farm economy as well as lower demand for construction equipment Nevertheless, all of Deere’s businesses remained solidly profitable, benefiting from the sound execution of our business plans and the success of our efforts to develop a more agile cost structure.

The company’s outlook has worsened slightly since Deere reported second-quarter results. Equipment sales are now forecast to fall by 21% (19% previously) for the full year and to be down by about 24% in the fourth quarter. The strong dollar will chop 5% from company totals in the quarter and 4% (6% previously) for the year. Net income for the year is forecast at around $1.8 billion ($1.9 billion previously).

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Shares of Deere were inactive in the premarket Friday morning, having closed Thursday at $90.65. The 52-week range is $78.88 to $98.23. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $89.00 before today’s report.

By Paul Ausick