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Silk Road drive sales

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

CHICAGO/NANTONG, China - At a Caterpillar facility in the eastern Chinese city of Nantong, an array of excavators, earth movers and road-making machinery is displayed on slopes and in mud pits.

The audience is Caterpillar's local network of dealers, who inspect the machines for the latest technological innovations to help make their sales pitches to buyers in China.

However, much of the heavy equipment could find its way to construction and mining projects in places like Pakistan or Kazakhstan, or as far away as Africa.

Caterpillar has been investing heavily in China —the Nantong facility is one of 25 similar ones it has set up across the country — in the hopes of cracking the largest construction and mining equipment market in the world.

Helping fuel the growth of that market, Caterpillar executives and analysts say, is China's Belt and Road initiative, a huge infrastructure spending spree that builds on the old Silk Road trading routes. The ambitious and ever-growing $1 trillion initiative now includes projects spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"Belt and Road is becoming a very important driver for Caterpillar's development," said Chen Qihua, head of Caterpillar China, at the Nantong facility.

The world's biggest equipment maker doesn't reveal its sales tied directly to Belt and Road projects, or break out its China revenues.

But analysts say its Asia-Pacific sales figures reflect demand for machines destined for Belt and Road projects as contractors buy most of their equipment in China.

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