Caterpillar Back in Black for Year

Caterpillar Tractor said Monday that it earned $198 million in fiscal 1985, halting three straight years of deficits that totaled nearly $1 billion.

The world's leading manufacturer of heavy construction equipment said the profit came on gross revenue of $6.73 billion--an increase of 2%, or $149 million, over 1984.

Caterpillar's previous annual losses were a record $428 million in 1984, $345 million in 1983 and $180 million in 1982.

In the final quarter of 1985, the Peoria, Ill.-based company said it earned $87 million in pretax profits, compared to a $251-million loss in the same quarter a year earlier.

Caterpillar said fourth-quarter revenue of $1.8 billion was 9% higher than 1984's fourth quarter.

The fourth-quarter gain marked three consecutive profitable quarters for Caterpillar, Illinois' largest manufacturing employer.

The company said that about half of the improvement in revenue over 1984 resulted from increased physical sales volume, while the remainder was mostly from better prices on machines and equipment sold.

In the previous three years, Caterpillar had said it was battered by stiff industrywide discounts on machines sold in the United States and overseas, a slowdown in building programs throughout much of the developing Third World, higher U.S. interest rates and the dollar's strength against foreign currencies.

Looking ahead, Caterpillar said that 1986 should be another highly competitive year but that it expected a moderate boost in sales volume over 1985. The company said it expects to benefit from the dollar's slide against foreign currencies.

Caterpillar closed out 1985 with a worldwide work force of about 53,000, down nearly 9,000 from a year earlier. At year-end, the company employed fewer than 40,000 people in the United States, continuing the trend that began after a peak about five years ago of more than 60,000 on its domestic payroll.

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