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Deere reports 52 percent profit increase

Farm equipment maker Deere & Co.said Wednesday its fourth-quarter profit rose 52 percent as strong worldwide agricultural sales more than offset declines in other sectors resulting from the U.S. housing downturn.

The Moline, Ill.-based company reported net sales of $6.14 billion for the fourth quarter, representing a 20 percent increase over the same period last year. Company shares rose after fourth quarter results exceeded analysts’ profit and sales estimates.

The company earned $422.1 million, or $1.88 a share, for the quarter ended Oct. 31, compared with $277.3 million, or $1.20 a share, for the same period last year.

Wall Street had predicted a profit of $1.55 a share and a top line of about $5.8 billion. Shares of Deere were advancing 1.7 percent to $147.50 in premarket trading Wednesday.

“Deere’s continuing strong performance reflects improving execution of our plans to create a fundamentally more profitable, resilient business,” said Robert W. Lane, Deere’s chairman and chief executive. “As a result, the company has delivered four successive years of record results, and done so in the face of mixed market conditions.” v

In fiscal 2007, Deere benefited from an improving global farm economy but saw weakening in the construction, forestry, commercial and consumer sectors -- chiefly as a result of the U.S. housing downturn, the company said.

Deere earned $1.8 billion in fiscal 2007. Company equipment sales are projected to increase by about 12 percent for fiscal 2008 and to be up roughly 25 percent for the first quarter. Deere is expecting net income of around $2.1 billion for the full year and about $325 million for the first quarter.

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