After this second consecutive quarter of lackluster earnings from the king of consolidation in heavy mining equipment, Bucyrus (Nasdaq: BUCY ) is desirous of the upcoming mine development spending blitz.
With a slightly unsettling counterpoint to the solid earnings reported by Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) last week, Bucyrus turned in a rather dismal $0.89-per-share profit that marks an 18% decline from the prior-year period. Consolidated sales rose sharply (20%) thanks to the acquisition of Terex's (NYSE: TEX ) mining equipment unit completed in February, but on a comparable basis (let's call it ex-Terex) sales deteriorated by a similar 18%.
Before reacting hastily to the decline, however, I urge investors to ponder the strategic position of Bucyrus within an industry poised for significant and lasting secular strength.
Building blocks of a strong outlook
Bucyrus maintained its optimistic full-year forecast for revenue of at least $3.65 billion, and an ongoing global uptick in mine development expenditure remains evident in the company's expanding order book and backlogs.
Bucyrus' order backlog surged 30% to $2.4 billion, with $1.6 billion of that expected to convert to revenue within the next 12 months. Ex-Terex, total backlogs still grew 12% from the comparable 2009 level. More encouraging still, new orders booked during the quarter surged 198%. Much of the incremental strength in order activity for the surface mining segment is attributable to the Terex transaction, but a 1,000% increase in new orders for original underground equipment is purely a feather in Bucyrus' cap. Fools may recall that rival Joy Global (Nasdaq: JOYG ) reported similar strength in backlog and order activity last month with a 55% uptick in new orders.
A $40 billion basis for growth
Now that the Terex acquisition has transformed Bucyrus into a veritable one-stop shop for the major mining equipment needs of a modern mining camp, long-term investors will watch with excitement as the company leverages the newfound breadth of the Terex-brand products into the $40 billion foundation of existing Bucyrus equipment already operated by the "big five" multinational mining conglomerates. Noting recent orders for (formerly) Terex-branded trucks and hydraulic excavators with Brazilian giant Vale (NYSE: VALE ) , Bucyrus believes that its existing relationship with the big five is already realizing significant value for the acquired Terex assets.
The secular bull market for commodities
Although not nearly as forthcoming with macroeconomic commentary as its rival Joy Global, Bucyrus nonetheless noted continued strength in commodity demand from the developing world ... "with the only exception of softness really being in the domestic thermal [coal] market." Offering its outlook for the U.S. economy more broadly, Bucyrus expects a "very choppy and slow recovery." Although coal miner Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU ) recently noted some improvement on the domestic coal front, its quest for growth remains squarely focused upon satisfying demand from the Pacific rim.
With respect to the copper market, where nervous investors have eyed China for signs of possible erosion in near-term demand, Bucyrus reminds Fools that worldwide copper production remains down from prior years because "mine yields continue to drop," suggesting that miners are presently challenged to meet baseline demand. The company is eyeing further copper mine development in Peru, where Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO ) is the name to watch.
I continue to view Joy Global and Bucyrus as attractive stocks for a range of economic scenarios, whether recovery ultimately takes hold or the markets go haywire. Please share your views on these heavy equipment makers in the comments below, or join the dedicated investors of Motley Fool CAPS as they discuss these topics in detail.