A Caterpillar\'s plant in Echirolles,
Caterpillar, the world\'s largest heavy equipment maker, reported Friday soaring profit for the first quarter on strong global demand and predicted record earnings for the full year.Caterpillar said it had \"record\" profit for the first quarter of $1.22 billion, an increase
of 426 percent from $233 million over the same period a year ago.
Sales climbed 57 percent to $12.95 billion for the US company, considered a bellwether in the global economy because its construction and mining products are used in building infrastructure.
Earnings per share hit $1.84 -- \"an all-time quarterly record and a 411-percent improvement\" from 36 cents in the first quarter of 2010, the company said in a statement.
The EPS figure easily topped the average analyst forecast of $1.31.
In midday New York trade, Caterpillar shares led the gainers on the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average, leaping 2.6 percent to $115.46. \"We expect that the pace of world economic growth will support continued recovery in the key industries we serve,\" chairman and chief executive Doug Oberhelman said in the statement, noting he was \"very pleased\" with the stellar first-quarter results. \"Demand continued to improve, we increased production, cost control was excellent, and our operating profit margin improved.\"
Caterpillar raised its full-year 2011 forecast, predicting a record-breaking year led by rising sales volume.
Sales for the world\'s biggest manufacturer of bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders and other construction machinery were estimated in a range of $52 to $54 billion and profit in a range of $6.25-6.75 per share.
The previous forecast was for sales to top $50 billion and for profit to be near $6.00 per share.
The revised outlook \"reflects higher expected sales and revenues and higher profit per share than our previous record year of 2008, when sales and revenues were $51.3 billion and profit per share was $5.66,\" it said.
The Peoria, Illinois-based company said its projections did not include the acquisitions of Motoren-Werke Mannheim Holding, a German engine maker, and US mining equipment supplier Bucyrus International, \"because they have not yet closed.\"
Caterpillar, in announcing in November a $7.6 billion all-cash purchase of Bucyrus, said it was positioning itself to capitalize on the robust outlook for commodities, particularly driven by rapid growth in emerging markets. \"Growth in the global economy increased both demand for commodities and commodity prices and was positive for mining in all regions of the world,\" it said Friday.
Construction activity continued to grow in the developing world and has led to record machine sales in many developing countries, it said.
Caterpillar posted strong double-digit sales gains worldwide from depressed levels a year ago, led by an 84 percent leap in Latin America. In North America, where it had the highest sales, growth was 62 percent.
The company said it added 10,104 full-time employees and 10,709 flexible staff over the past 12 months to support the strong expansion.
Oberhelman said the continuing improvement in the outlook supports the firm\'s strategy to \"aggressively invest\" in additional capacity for key products. \"We expect capital expenditures of about $3 billion in 2011 with more than half in the United States,\" he added.
Oberhelman said the company was \"saddened\" by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 that left nearly 26,000 people killed or missing.
The company said its facilities were not damaged by the disaster, but many of its suppliers in Japan were impacted.
It projected the disruptions would have a negative impact on 2011 results of $300 million in sales and $100 million in operating costs.