Kubota Aims to Become 'Real Threat' to John Deere

March 14, 2013 03:44 AM

Kubota Corp., the Japanese farm- tractor maker seeking an overseas purchase of as much as $2 billion, said the weakening yen will push sales to a record in the next fiscal year and won’t curb its acquisition appetite.

The boost to exports from the yen’s slide, combined with more demand from North America and Southeast Asia, will probably lift revenue by about 20 percent to 1.4 trillion yen ($14.6 billion) in the fiscal year starting April 1, President Yasuo Masumoto said March 11 in an interview in Tokyo. His target is 13 percent higher than the mean of 19 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

"The yen’s depreciation is driving up our top line," Masumoto said. "We have high expectations on the impact from gains in the currency in the coming year," he said.

The 11 percent decline in the yen since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office Dec. 26 is alleviating cost pressures at Japanese exporters ranging from Toyota Motor Corp. to JFE Holdings Inc. Mechanization in Thailand and more sales in the U.S. to consumers involved in gardening and renovation are also boosting demand for Kubota’s equipment, Masumoto said.

In the U.S., work began on 613,000 single-family homes at an annualized rate in January, the most since July 2008, according to a Feb. 26 release from the Commerce Department in Washington.

Kubota climbed as much as 4.5 percent and closed up 2.7 percent to 1,258 yen in Tokyo trading, the highest since Feb. 26, 2007. The stock has gained 28 percent this year. Iseki & Co., a Tokyo-based farm-equipment maker, also gained 8.2 percent, the highest since November, 2009.

Deere & Co., the world’s biggest maker of farm equipment, has risen 5.7 percent since Jan. 1.

The yen’s decline in the past three months will be fully reflected in earnings next quarter, according to Kubota. The yen traded at 95.97 to the U.S. dollar as of 3:31 p.m. in Tokyo after touching 96.71 on March 12, the weakest since August, 2009.

As a negative, the weaker yen increases costs for Japanese companies when they invest in overseas assets, reducing their purchasing power. Kubota’s need to capitalize on growth in the global market for agricultural equipment means the lower yen won’t alter its ambitions for acquisitions, Masumoto said.

Kubota, which specializes in smaller tractors and combines for wet paddy fields, is seeking to add large tractors powerful enough to plow big fields that grow wheat and corn -- a market dominated by Deere, CNH Global NV and Agco Corp.

Masumoto has approached acquisition targets that own large tractors and aims to settle a deal by the end of the year, he said, without naming any companies.

The company last year completed its purchase of Kverneland ASA, a Norwegian maker of tractor ploughs and grass-processing products, as a step to speed overseas expansion.

Kubota has so far used its experience in selling agricultural equipment to expand in rice-growing regions in Southeast Asia and China, where economic growth has boosted incomes.

Masumoto wants Kubota to become the world’s top producer of farm equipment by overtaking Deere in the long term.

"Ten years from now, we want to be seen as a real threat to Deere," the president said.

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