This 175-year-old stalwart makes for a delectable investment. With record income projected for the year, additional growth opportunities, and impressive shareholder returns in the recent past, Deere's
All the right moves
The global population is increasing, with most of the growth likely to come from Asia and Africa. Farmers will have to grow more, and they can't do so without good farm equipment. Deere knows this well, which is why a major chunk of its investments are directed toward the emerging markets -- and the strategy is paying off.
Sales from Asia, Africa, and South America surged more than 30% last year from 2010 levels, with regions outside the U.S. and Canada contributing more than 40% to Deere's total equipment sales. Can this get bigger? Yes, because Deere has a lot of new facilities and expansions currently under way in countries such as India, China, and Brazil. With farmers in these countries warming up to advanced equipment, Deere has done well to come out with its lineup of the most innovative agriculture equipment last year. And let's not forget that Deere is the leader in the U.S. farm equipment market.
From the greens to the browns
It's not just about farm equipment, though. Deere's got a construction business which is doing well, too, and I like the company's efforts to make it big in this other field. China and Brazil are emerging as hot spots for construction companies. Deere has set foot into the high-potential Brazilian construction market with two new factories at a time when the nation is preparing for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. It's a smart move, as other construction players are making their presence felt, too. Manitowoc
Doesn't get better than this
After all these big investments, is Deere standing on a strong financial footing? Yes, pretty much. Although its debt levels aren't very comforting (total debt-to-capital ratio is 80.6%), Deere's operating margin, cash flow, and cash balances are great. Its EBIT -- earnings before interest and tax -- margin is 13.4%, while cash and equivalents stand at about $2.4 billion, comfortable enough to service its massive debt. To add to it, Deere has an excellent dividend payout history, having raised its quarterly dividends 10 times since 2004. The current dividend payout ratio stands at 22.5%. So Deere is balancing its act well.
The Foolish bottom line
Deere is projecting its agriculture equipment sales to go up by 15% this year, which stands much higher than the 5% that its peer CNH Global is expecting. Deere's sales, net income, and cash flow hit record highs last year. The way things are going, I won't be surprised if Deere keeps treating us to more record-breaking numbers.
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Neha Chamaria does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.