UPDATED: Current operations are strong while world challenges present opportunity for Deere & Co., CEO Sam Allen said Wednesday at the Moline-based manufacturer’s annual stockholders meeting.
The world faces the challenge of producing more food for more people with the same or fewer resources, while more people move to the city, requiring places to live, work and recreate, Allen said.
Helping to solve those problems is the challenges faced by a company that anticipates $3.3 billion in profits in 2013, Allen said.
Ahead of the meeting, held at the company’s world headquarters in Moline, Deere’s board of directors approved a 5 cent per share dividend rate increase on common stock, raising dividend payments from 46 cents to 51 cents per share. That is an 11 percent increase and the 11th dividend increase since 2004. Deere closed up $1.32 at $87.82 a share Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
“We believe Deere’s recent success positions the company to compete at a high level in a wide range of markets and market conditions,” Allen said. “And, it provides a firm foundation for the company to pursue its growth plans — plans moving ahead at an encouraging pace.”
Talking about global challenges resonated with stockholder Martin Oswald of Perryville, Mo., who said he was glad to hear “how John Deere is attuned to the world” and considering how to grow more food for more people.
Deere is building seven new factories in Brazil, Russia, India and China. Two in China and one in Russia have begun production.
Allen highlighted the company’s investment in China’s Tiajin economic development zone, especially an engine factory expected to begin production in a few months. Deere has also begun a leasing operation and opened a business office.
The CEO didn’t neglect home in his speech, noting the recent success of farmers in the United States and around the world has been beneficial to Deere. Fifty-five percent of the company’s employees are in North America.
“Farmers have never been in better financial shape,” he said. “And their good health has translated into strong sales of farm machinery.
“Deere’s domestic manufacturing operations are efficient, profitable and growing — and we’re committed to keeping them that way,” he said. “In recent months, U.S. factory expansions have been announced for tractors, sprayers, cylinders and planters, among other products.”
The Quad-Cities is seeing some of that investment. The company is committing $58 million at John Deere Seeding in Moline to enhance operations. That work is to begin this year and be completed in 2015.
Following his presentation, Allen fielded questions on the company’s irrigation division and China market.
Allen said precision irrigation will be a key component of crop production in the future, and that Deere has about 20-25 percent of that $1 billion market.
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“We haven’t figured out how to gain traction in precision irrigation,” he said.
Deere has had to adapt and create new products specifically for the Chinese and Indian markets, but large farms still the main market in China, Allen said in response to the question about small farms in China.
The only other questions were regarding giving by the Deere Foundation and the company ending its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative political group.
EARLIER STORY: The Deere & Co. board of directors has approved an increase of the company’s dividend to 51 cents a share on common stock, the Moline-based company announced this morning.
The dividend is payable May 1 to stockholders of record on March 28.
The new quarterly rate represents an increase of 5 cents per share over the previous level, an increase of about 11 percent. This is the 11th increase to the company’s quarterly dividend since early 2004. Deere last raised its dividend in February 2012.
“Our dividend increase reflects our confidence in our long-term cash flows. Deere is well positioned to benefit from major trends that we continue to believe hold great promise for the company and its customers and investors,” Samuel R. Allen, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “We remain committed to our plans for profitably growing the company and returning cash to shareholders.”