Are these companies feeling the Chinese slowdown?25 April, 2012, 20:35. Posted by Zarathustra
ABB (ABBN.VX) and Caterpillar (CAT.N) announced their first quarter results, and gave some curious clues to what is happening in China.
To start with, ABB’s bottom-line beat expectations while margins declines. The company’s presentation said that “Weaker China offset by good growth in N America”. When was the last time we heard something like that?
The picture from the order book is even more interesting, as China’s order growth has turned to –35%. Now Morgan Stanley offers some thoughts after they listened in the presentation, and they are not hugely impressed on that big decline in order from China:
China 1Q12 orders -35% YoY: The composition of geographic orders is material here, with Americas +27% but Asia -11% (Europe -1% and MEA +2%). Within Asia, China orders are -35% with Power -56% and Automation -14% — we note a difficult comp, but still a steep decline. In automation, German orders are +4% i.e. in line with Siemens but apparently different from Schneider.
Source: ABB Company Presentation
Meanwhile, analysts from SEB noted:
ABB is turning more cautious on China with uncertainty on when demand will recover in transportation and construction (it previously stated that China appears to be returning to a focus on growth). Also, ABB stated that the unfavourable business mix will depend partly on the development in China and Southern Europe, which is a more cautious tone than in the Q4 report where management stated that the mix should normalise after Q1. The company said price pressure will remain in parts of the power business (the same statement as before). All in all, the earnings and outlook were disappointing, while order intake was in line with our forecast.
Now, Caterpillar Beats estimate on the bottom-line and just raises their profit forecast for the year, while revenue growth missed estimates. Again, in their results announcement, they blamed China’s slowdown:
“These outstanding results demonstrate our continued focus on execution and controlling costs as we increase production and expand capacity to meet increasing demand from our customers. We’re seeing strong global demand for most mining products and significant growth in replacement demand for products in the United States, which more than offset slowing in China and Brazil,” said Caterpillar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman.
We expect that sales in the developing countries will be lower than anticipated, with most of the weakness in China and Brazil. Demand in Brazil is showing tentative signs of improvement, and we expect recent, sharp interest rate cuts will reinforce that trend. Demand in China remained weak after the Chinese New Year, and we now expect the overall machine industry to decline slightly this year. We expect the government will continue to ease economic policies further, but not in time to support significant recovery this year.
These companies are probably probably feeling the slowdown, especially the products these companies produce would be rather more sensitive to investment in China, which is bound to slow in the years to come as the economy rebalances (whether in a good way or in a bad way). So this is not to say that every company who sell stuff to China must be suffering now. However, the signs of slowdown are indisputable.