In today's world, most companies span several regions and sell around the world. As Foolish colleague Morgan Housel notes, 10 years ago, less than a third of S&P 500 revenue came from overseas. Today, more than half of the S&P 500's growth comes from overseas.

And that number is growing. The truth is, investors regularly underestimate how much demand comes from abroad. More importantly, for large, multinational corporations that have already established a presence in their home markets, much of their future growth comes from abroad.

With that in mind, today we're looking at Deere (NYSE: DE). We'll examine not only where its sales and earnings come from, but also how its sales abroad have changed over time.

Where Deere's sales were five years ago

Five years ago time, Deere produced 71% of its sales within the United States and Canada.  

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Where Deere's sales are today
Today, America and Canada are still Deere's largest market, but their influence is shrinking. While the United States and Canada still contribute 35% of sales, the sales growth in North America lags far behind that of other regions.


5-Year Revenue Growth

Outside United States and Canada 48%
United States and Canada 13%

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

However, strictly looking at sales wouldn't tell the whole story. On an operating-profit basis, the United States and Canada saw profits soar while International markets were stuck in the mud. The profit story is essentially a mirror image of sales growth.


5-Year Profit Growth

Outside United States and Canada 17%
United States and Canada 56%

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

So while Deere might be growing the top line by aggressively expanding in International markets, domestic sales growth is slower in large part because the company is focusing on efficiency. Deere is carefully balancing milking its cash cow (its home U.S. and Canada market) while working to aggressively expand its presence in International markets at the expense of lower margins.

Competitor checkup
One last point to check is how Deere's footprint compares with some of its peers.


Geography With Most Sales

Percent of Sales

Deere (NYSE: DE) United States and Canada 65%
Terex (NYSE: TEX) All Other* 41%
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) North America 38%
AGCO (NYSE: AGCO) South America** 25%

Source: S&P Capital IQ.
*Terex's largest unit, All Other, includes all countries outside the United States and Europe. In terms of largest reported country, the United States accounts for 27% of sales.
** AGCO reports European countries separately, but in total they would be its largest market.

Compared with its peers, Deere is a more concentrated bet on the United States market. Caterpillar has been placing a particular focus on the Asian market, which saw 169% sales growth over the past four years and now accounts for 24% of total sales. Meanwhile, although South Africa is its single largest reported segment, AGCO is more dependent on European demand. If you're looking to invest in heavy machinery, macro forecasts for varying regions should pay heavily into your investing thesis.

Keep searching
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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.