Fluor Corp. finished 2013 on a high note, with oil-and-gas work improving both revenue and profitability, and the firm is hopeful the momentum will carry over into 2014.
In releasing fourth-quarter 2013 results on Feb. 17, Fluor announced $4.2 billion in oil-and-gas contract awards, up 151% year-to-year and 78% since last quarter.
Backlog in the segment rose 10% from a year ago, climbing to $20 billion at year's end.The firm reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $167 million, compared to a loss of $4 million in 2012.
"I am pretty bullish on where we're headed with oil and gas," Chairman and CEO David Seaton told analysts, noting the firm's win last month of the Kitimat LNG project in Canada. He said the award and others "validate [the firm's] ability to capture our fair share or maybe more ... of some strategic programs at margins that should see rise."
Seaton acknowledged that some awards in oil-and-gas and other segments are fixed price but said Fluor was "very comfortable in our ability to execute against that."
Earlier in February, Fluor announced the elevation of Peter Oosterveer to chief operating officer, a position vacant since Seaton, its last incumbent, was named CEO in 2011. Oosterveer now will directly oversee the firm's commercial business lines. He had been president of the energy-and-chemicals group.
Wall Street analysts were optimistic, if not gleeful. "Fluor continues to clean house on awards and deliver on the margin side," said Jamie Cooke, E&C sector analyst for Credit Suisse.
But Andrew Wittmann, industry sector analyst for Baird Equity Research, noted "weakness in government [work] and continued drag in mining and power."
Seaton acknowledged a drop in Fluor's industrial and infrastructure backlog, including the fourth-quarter cancellation of its EPCM contract on the Pascua Lama gold and silver mine project in Chile. He said that action cut $1.8 billion from the firm's backlog, although it is still working on water treatment facilities and project wind down.
Hoped-for improvements in those sectors by year's end and into 2015 "should help offset pressure" on Fluor's industrial and infrastructure group, says Sterne Agee E&C analyst Michael Dudas.
Analysts noted the potential of another Fluor award, related to a bid for the Cameron LNG project in Louisiana, which just won U.S. export approval to non-free-trade-agreement countries.
Dudas expects a final investment decision for the $6-billion project and a likely EPC contract award of up to $2.5 billion this year.
But others see contractor CB&I as a strong contender for the job.