Caterpillar profit disappoints

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar has failed to impress analysts with its 2012 profit, after accounting fraud and writedowns hit its bottom line.

While the company posted a 15 per cent rise in 2012 net profit, the result was below market expectations, with revenue falling 6.8 per cent to $15.44 billion.

The company also closed out 2012 poorly, with fourth quarter net profit down to $669 million compared with $1.5 billion at the same time last year.

A $557 million charge owing to accounting fraud at the recently acquired Siwei manufacturing plant in China led the disappointing result, but Caterpillar also said tough economic conditions had slowed equipment sales worldwide.

“Considering the weak economy in the United States, along with much of Europe in recession and China slowing, we had a solid year," Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said in a statement.

“Our incremental profit pull-through was very good, we made progress adjusting inventory levels and our quality and safety indicators continued to improve.”

Company officials said Caterpillar had reduced its inventory by slowing production rather than selling at a discounted rate, and while some economic indicators were improving the outlook for 2013 was clouded by uncertainty.

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