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North America Helps Cummins Hit the Gas

By Dan Caplinger – Apr 30, 2019 at 9:17AM

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The engine maker overcame headwinds overseas.

One of the challenges involved in running a global company is dealing with the ups and downs of business cycles around the world. Engine manufacturer Cummins (CMI 0.32%) does business across the globe, and often, when economic conditions in the U.S. aren't up to par, the company is able to make up for that poor performance with better results elsewhere. Conversely, when things with the global economy get dicey, strength closer to home can be a valuable offset as well.

Coming into Tuesday's first-quarter financial report, Cummins investors wanted to see a big boost to the bottom line along with healthy sales growth. Despite weakness abroad, Cummins' home North American market came through with great results that lifted the entire company's prospects higher.

Red Cummins turbo diesel engine.

Image source: Cummins.

Cummins shows shareholders the money

Cummins' first-quarter results gave investors most of what they wanted to see. Revenue came in at almost exactly $6 billion, which was up 8% from year-ago levels and outpaced the $5.84 billion that most of those following the stock were expecting from the engine maker. Net income more than doubled from the first quarter of 2018 to $663 million, and that produced earnings of $4.20 per share, crushing the consensus forecast among investors for $3.57 per share.

Geographically, strength in the North American region saved Cummins from much slower growth. Sales in North America were up 13% compared to the year-earlier period, while revenue internationally climbed at just a 1% pace. Domestic strength played a role in lifting segment sales at nearly all of the company's business divisions. The strong U.S. dollar also played a role in keeping international results down, costing Cummins about 2 percentage points of revenue growth.

Cummins' growth was fairly consistent across its major business units. The key engine division saw sales climb 8%, driven by increased demand in North American truck and global construction markets. Segment profit jumped by more than half compared with how Cummins did a year ago. Meanwhile, the distribution segment also enjoyed an 8% rise in sales, driven by double-digit-percentage growth in the North American market. The company called out data center demand as an especially strong part of its success for the quarter, and segment profit was up 39% over year-earlier levels.

In the components segment, sales grew just 6%, with a 17% increase in North America coming from rising production of heavy- and medium-duty trucks. However, international sales were down 8%, although that didn't stop the segment from seeing its bottom line rise 43%. Only the power systems segment lagged behind, with flat sales and a modest 3% drop in profit.

A boost in Cummins' outlook

CEO Tom Linebarger celebrated Cummins' performance. "The company shipped a record number of truck engines in North America during the first quarter," Linebarger said, as "our market-leading position in this region reflects our close partnerships with our customers who rely on us to provide a broad range of power solutions for their needs."

Cummins remained excited about its prospects for 2019, with the CEO commenting: "We are on track to deliver record results for the year and return significant capital to investors, and will continue to invest across our broad portfolio to power a strong future for our stakeholders."

In response to the results, Cummins raised some of its guidance for 2019. The engine maker kept its revenue expectations unchanged, with calls for sales to come in flat to up 4% for the year. However, it boosted its adjusted pre-tax operating margin range by half a percentage point to between 16.25% and 16.75%.

Cummins investors seemed happy about the profit performance, and the stock was higher by 2% to 3% in pre-market trading following the announcement. Coming on the heels of past concerns that 2019 could be much weaker for the engine manufacturer, shareholders hope that Cummins will be able to keep building up momentum to find growth wherever it can across its global footprint.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cummins. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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