Before the market open today, Deere (DE) reported fiscal second quarter earning of $2.14 a share. (That excludes the gain from the sale of SiteOne Landscape Supply for $111 million.) Those earnings were 45 cent a share better than the Wall Street consensus of $1.69 a share. Revenue climbed just 2.2% year over year so the beat was largely a result of costs savings, a more profitable product mix, and higher realized prices. Cost of sales in the company’s equipment business fell to 75% in the quarter from a prior forecast of 78%.
Deere raised its guidance for the third quarter to an 18% increase in revenue (that’s $6.92 billion versus the consensus of $6.24 billion.) and to a 9% increase in revenue from 4% for the full 2017 fiscal year. The company also raised its guidance for net income to $2 billion from $1.5 billion.
The stock, which is a member of my long-term 50 Stocks portfolio, finished up 7.3% on the day. The shares are now up 17.33% for 2017 to date as of the May 19 close and 50.83% for the last 12 months. Because of that price appreciation, the dividend yield has fallen to 1.99%.
In its conference call the company basically pointed to continued stabilization in its end markets with modestly higher global demand for its products. The industrywide global sales picture continues to show declining sales, the company said, but the decline is taking place at a much slower rate than in the past two years.
I was hoping to hear, but didn’t in either the earnings slides or the conference call, something about Deere’s strategy of investing in big data and its belief that we’re at the beginning of another cycle in farm productivity as farmers and equipment makers harness data analysis to farm production. In the last two years Deere has bought one manufacturer of high-tech planting machinery and acquired a majority stake in another. It opened an office in San Francisco in May to get closer Big Data efforts in Silicon Valley. The company’s Big Data strategy took a stumble when its attempt to buy a Monsanto unit in that sector got killed by anti-trust objections from the Justice Department. The company is known to be on the prowl for other deals in this area, but I haven’t seen a good estimate of how much revenue Deere’s technology ventures are pulling in. Or what a projected revenue growth rate might be. That’s important for long-term investors who would like to know if they’re riding the cutting edge of the next wave with Deere.