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As China’s economy cools, some big U.S. and European companies are losing what had been one of their surest growth bets.

Caterpillar Inc, 3M Co, United Technologies Corp and ABB Ltd  are among the manufacturers that have reported weak performances in China in the first quarter, as economic growth slowed to a near three-year-low.

That is making investors nervous, though some Western chief executives predict a return to rapid growth in China, fuelled by the government’s easing monetary policy and expansion into faster-growing cities inland.

Caterpillar’s sales in China fell by $250 million to $300 million in the first quarter, forcing the world’s largest maker of earth-moving equipment to export about 20 percent of its China-made equipment to other countries this year.

“We are introducing programs inside China to work with dealers to get some of that inventory in the hands of customers,” Caterpillar Chief Executive Doug Oberhelman said.

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