Engineering Some Real Opportunities

Fools, I come bearing gifts in the form of thoughts about a sector that's not particularly flashy but stands to be a key beneficiary of the world's rapid industrialization, along with the necessary global expansion of refineries, oil and gas production facilities, petrochemical plants, industrial operations, and power plants.

The companies operate under names that may only be marginally familiar to you: Foster Wheeler (Nasdaq: FWLT  ) , KBR (NYSE: KBR  ) , McDermott International (NYSE: MDR  ) , Fluor (NYSE: FLR  ) , the Shaw Group (NYSE: SGR  ) , and Jacobs Engineering (NYSE: JEC  ) . But as luck would have it, the first four have all just told us about their most recent quarterly performances. Let's take a look at how they fared.

Foster Wheeler's results
New Jersey-based Foster Wheeler, which is involved in engineering and construction services connected to all of the facilities types mentioned above, increased its profits nearly 24% to $78.1 million, or $0.54 per share, from the $63.1 million, or $0.44, for the same quarter a year earlier. The company's revenues increased 23% to $1.47 billion.

But if you back out a group of nonoperating charges from both quarters, the most recent quarter came in at $0.56 a share, down from $0.60 in the final quarter of 2006. The latest quarter was affected by the negative impact $8.3 million related to the repeal of an Italian power-price tariff, along with $5 million the company took against a reimbursable contract involving a dispute with a client.

And KBR's ...
KBR, which was spun off a year ago from Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) , earned $71 million, or $0.42 a share, vs. $43 million, or $0.28 a share, a year ago. However, the most recent quarter included a $23 million, or $0.14 a share, tax benefit related to a discontinued operation.

Perhaps more importantly, Houston-based KBR, which has come under fire related to its government and military work in Iraq and Afghanistan, continues to reel in contracts in a variety of locations. For instance, the company has recently been awarded work involving a gasification unit in Canada, an offshore LNG production project in Western Australia, an ammonia plant in Venezuela, and an ethylene plant in China.

Followed by Fluor ...
Fluor rode increased sales and a significant tax benefit to a more-than-220% increase in its quarterly earnings. For the period, the company earned $259.5 million, or $2.82 a share, up from $80.7 million, or $0.90, for the last quarter of 2006. Included in the quarter was a positive $1.35-per-share tax settlement with the IRS. Revenues for the quarter climbed to $4.7 billion, from $3.6 billion.

Following the release of its results, through midday Thursday, Fluor's shares had risen more than 8%. Clearly, the run-up was at least in part due to management's expectation of continued strength across several key segments.

And finally, McDermott ...
McDermott benefited from strength in its offshore oil and gas construction segment during the quarter. Its earnings increased to $160 million, or $0.70 per share, vs. $125.5 million, or $0.55 a share, in the prior quarter, with significant strength shown in its offshore oil and gas.

Conclusion
So there you have it: four companies involved in globalization and industrialization that are becoming more crucial and pervasive by the day. At the same time, the foursome comprises a group that is vital to our ability to produce, convert, and refine oil and natural gas. I strongly suggest that my Foolish friends consider the inclusion of the abovementioned companies in the construction of solid portfolios.

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