It seems as though many of today’s economic woes are being blamed on China’s currently shrinking economy, including the recent news that Caterpillar, Inc (NYSE: CAT), plans a total of 10,000 job cuts by the end of 2018. Looking to reduce annual costs by about $1.5 billion by the end of 2016, the Peoria-based heavy equipment manufacturing giant says that somewhere around four to five thousand of these jobs cuts will involve salaried and management personnel, who are projected to be gone by the end of next year.
Revenues for the current year are expected to be about 2% lower than previously projected, with next year’s expected revenues to drop another 5%. This represents a decline of nearly 27% since the company’s peak revenue numbers of almost $66 billion for 2012. If the current revenue-loss projections come to pass, this will mark the first time in Caterpillar’s history – a company founded in 1925 – where sales have declined for four years straight.
News of the proposed job cuts had caused Caterpillar stock to drop by more than 6% by late morning trading, bringing company stock prices down approximately 41% lower than their 2014 highs. Even during the downturn, however, CAT has remained profitable, reporting earnings of $3.7 billion for 2014, which was down from 2012’s earnings of $5.7 billion. In an effort to prop up their stock price, CAT has repurchased $8.2 billion in company shares since the middle of 2012. Even this has been ineffective in keeping stock prices afloat.
The construction and commodities boom that followed the 2008 global economic crash saw Caterpillar gearing up to satisfy a growing demand in foreign markets, especially in China, for heavy equipment used in mining coal, cooper, iron and other underground commodities. This included Canada’s requirement for big trucks being used in the production of petroleum products from oil sands and shale.
Unfortunately, not only has Chinese demand significantly decreased in those commodities reliant on heavy equipment for production and delivery, but the price of oil has dropped so low that it makes oil sands mining much less profitable.
As of June, the employee count at Caterpillar worldwide was slightly more than 110,000. Already, some 31,000 jobs have been cut since 2012 and about eight million square feet of manufacturing area has been lost, affecting all or parts of more than 20 separate facilities and reducing total manufacturing space by 10%.