Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) may not strike investors as an exciting company. Deere's farm and agricultural equipment isn't likely to make headlines in the financial media as the next hot investing idea of the day. At the same time though, Deere provides a hugely valuable lineup of products and services that will be critical to the world's farmers meeting the increasing food demands of booming global populations.
Consider the immense strain placed on global food production. Crop nutrient supplier Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) estimates that the world's population recently hit 7 billion, and that should rise to 9 billion by 2050. That represents growth of about 75 million people per year; huge population growth, along with rising human prosperity, compounds the growing demand for food.
That means the underlying economics of Deere's business model are extremely favorable, and should plant the seeds of future growth for many years. Here's what the company has in store for investors going forward.
'Feet on the ground, eyes on the horizon'
That's Deere's self-described business strategy. The company focuses on both meeting short-term expectations, as well as fulfilling its long-term strategic initiatives. Over the near-term, Deere will continue to deliver quality products and services that meet its customer's demands within the changing agricultural landscape.
Deere has navigated the current environment much better than heavy machinery giant Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), due to its product focus. Caterpillar is in the wrong place at the wrong time right now. Its equipment, which caters to the mining industry, is seeing less demand due to the downturn in precious metals prices and mining activity. While Deere posted 19% profit growth last year, Caterpillar's adjusted profit fell by 32% in 2013.
Deere's long-term picture is extremely bright as well. Deere believes a full 70% of the estimated 9 billion population will live in cities, where diets will be extremely grain-intensive. To serve the food needs of all these people, Deere maintains a goal of $50 billion in net sales by 2018. Deere's sales last year clocked in at just under $38 billion, so there's a lot of work to be done. Clearly, growing sales to $50 billion will require investment, and Deere is up to the task.
Over the next several years, Deere's objectives include expanding its footprint in new markets and pursuing the best growth opportunities across the globe.
Deere plowing into the emerging markets
Last year, Deere introduced dozens of new products each designed to fit the specific needs of its customers. And, it advanced progress in its engine-development program. Deere also built 7 new factories in key markets last year that all reached completion and should be ready for higher production this year. Of these facilities, three are in China, two are in Brazil, and one each in Russia and India. These represent major inroads into the BRIC nations, which include Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and those countries are set to lead the way in global economic growth.
At the same time, Deere has big plans for the United States as well. Of the dozen major factory projects currently under way, more than half are in the U.S. Almost all of Deere's domestic factories have undergone major modernization and expansion over the past few years.
Deere uniquely positioned to profit
While Caterpillar muddles through the tough environment for mining equipment, Deere is on a much smoother path thanks to the strong underlying economics of the agriculture industry. Deere's focus on innovation and customer service means it's uniquely set up to succeed as the global population grows. Deere is well-positioned to reap huge future profits from emerging economies across the globe which are seeing rising prosperity and millions of new entrants into the middle class. As a result, Deere's future is extremely bright.
Who else's future is heavily influenced by China?
Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.