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Joy Global CEO Still Positive On Mining Outlook

By Doug Cameron Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES The head of Joy Global Inc. (JOY) said Thursday that global demand for mining equipment remained solid despite an order slowdown in the latest quarter because of the weak U.S. coal market and sluggish sales in China. The drop in orders and reduced full-year guidance spooked investors and saw shares in the U.S. company fall to their lowest level in almost 18 months, with concerns spilling over onto rivals including Caterpillar Inc. (CAT). Mike Sutherlin, Joy Global's chief executive, said on a post-earnings call that demand from the U.S. coal market was the main problem, and was optimistic about demand from overseas, including a return to more buoyant sales in China. Big mining companies including BHP Billiton PLC (BLT.LN) and Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) have in recent weeks announced plans to trim capital investments, but Sutherlin said this was "not a broad trend." He said that while some big green-field mining projects may be pushed back because of broad economic uncertainty, producers were pushing ahead with existing expansion. Global demand for commodities such as coal, iron ore and copper is expected to double over the next 20 years, and Sutherlin said the market for coal and iron ore mining equipment in Australia and Latin America remained strong, though the coal markets in the U.S., Russia and South Africa were weaker. Mild winter weather and competition from cheap natural gas has left U.S. coal producers with large stockpiles, especially in the eastern part of the country. Joy Global cut its full-year guidance to reflect what Sutherlin said were potential sales "at risk" from U.S. coal companies trimming their investment plans. The mining equipment sector offers some of the best margins in the heavy construction business, spurring a surge in deal-making over the past year. Caterpillar, the global market leader, is spending $15 billion on expanding its mining business over the next four years, including its $8.8 billion purchase of Bucyrus, Joy Global's crosstown rival in Milwaukee. Both companies are expanding through acquisitions in China, though Sutherlin said that market has been hit by cheap coal imports. His comments came as Joy Global reported a 32% rise in fiscal second-quarter profit and cut its full-year earnings view by 35 cents a share to $7.15 to $7.45, with revenue seen $100 million lower than previously forecast at between $5.5 billion and $5.7 billion. "Even though there is upside to the current market conditions, the continuing uncertainty will keep mining companies cautious," said Sutherlin in a statement accompanying the results. For the quarter ended April 27, Joy Global reported a profit of $213.6 million compared to $162 million a year earlier, with per-share earnings rising to $2 from $1.52. Revenue rose 45% to $1.54 billion. Order bookings--an indication of future sales--at the quarter's end fell 19% to $1.23 billion from $1.52 billion a year earlier. Current bookings reflect an anticipated decline in demand for original equipment in the U.S. market, as well as normal swings in timing for international projects, the chief executive said. Sutherlin said he still expected the book-to-build ratio for the full year to be above one. Joy Global shares were recently down 6.6% at $54.79, with Caterpillar off 5.9% at $86.66. -By Doug Cameron, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4135; (Kristin Jones contributed to this article.)

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