Falling sales make Deere a sell

The maker of farm equipment sees sales decreasing next year, even with a big jump expected in its construction and forestry unit.

By Jim J. Jubak Dec 1, 2009 3:49PM

Jim JubakSometimes the words are worse than the numbers. That's the case with Deere's (DE) guidance for fiscal 2010, which began on Nov. 1.

The company said fiscal 2010 earnings would come in at $2.12 a share on a 1% decline in sales. First-quarter fiscal 2010 sales will be down about 10%, the company projects.

That's no big deal, and I'd be inclined to sit those numbers out and wait for the turn in Deere's business that everyone expects in fiscal 2010.

Except for the words that the company used in describing fiscal 2010 sales. Those words lead me to sell Deere out of my 12- to 18-month Jubak's Picks portfolio. I'm keeping the stock in my long-term Jubak Picks 50, however.

Here's why I'm selling today:

Deere projects that sales in its farm equipment business will continue to fall in 2010 by about 4%. North American sales will be down 10% for the year. That means the turn in the farm equipment business is a little further off than everybody, myself included, was hoping.

Fiscal 2010 results would be much, much worse, however, except that Deere is projecting an 18% increase in sales in its construction and forestry unit.  But even though sales will increase by a healthy percentage in fiscal 2010, the reasons for the increase aren't especially healthy.

Deere doesn't see any pickup in end demand in this market. Most of the increase will come from restocking of inventory. And the business will still show a negative operating margin. (In other words, Deere will lose money on every sale in this business unit.)

Obviously, this sell has something to do with my worry that growth in 2010 will be slower than now projected. (For the thinking of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank on growth, see this post).

With the stock in the neighborhood of my target price of $56 a share by July 2010 (it changed hands at around $54.50 Tuesday), as of Dec. 1 I'm going to sell Deere out of the Jubak's Picks portfolio. 

I have a 9.5% gain since I added it to that portfolio on January 12, 2007.

Jim Jubak plans to sell his shares of Deere out of his personal portfolio three days after this is posted.   



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