Caterpillar today reported sales of US$7.89bn for its fourth quarter, down 37 per cent compared to the same period a year ago. Its profit per share fell 67 per cent to US$0.36. The company also reported that machinery and engine sales, which includes marine, declined by 41 per cent for the quarter to US$7.2bn.

“While the economy in 2009 was the worst our company has experienced since the Great Depression, I’m proud to report that Team Caterpillar responded in an extraordinary way,” said Caterpillar chairman and CEO Jim Owens in a statement. “We delivered solid profitability and cash flow and dramatically improved our balance sheet. In addition, we had continued access to debt markets, improved our liquidity position, expanded credit facilities and made a conscious decision to hold more cash.”

The company’s 2009 sales dropped by US$18.93bn compared to 2008, and its profit of US$895m was down 75 per cent compared to the previous year. Global engine sales were US$11.4bn for 2009, a 30 per cent decrease compared to 2008.

Owens said the company expects 2010 sales to be up 10 to 25 per cent compared to last year. “We continue to see signs of economic improvement, particularly in China and most developing countries,” he said. “We are also seeing signs of improvement in North America, Europe and Japan, but these economies remain weak and have not rebounded as quickly as developing countries. Caterpillar is in an excellent position to benefit from growth in the world economy.”