Why Willbros Group Shares Jumped

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Willbros Group (NYSE: WG  ) were pumping higher today, gaining as much as 20% after reporting second-quarter earnings last night.

So what: The energy services provider posted earnings of $0.02 per share, well ahead of expectations of a $0.08 loss, while revenue improved 8% to $487 million. Its utility transmission and distribution segment brought in operating profit of $15.6 million on cost cutting, countering the $18.8 million loss it took in oil and gas. Sales in Canada also more than doubled from a year ago. Management noted that June results in oil and gas were breakeven, and it expects improved performance in the coming quarters. Willbros' backlog remained at $2.0 billion, as it was three months earlier.

Now what: With the thorn its side from oil and gas apparently gone, profits should be looking up for Willbros. Analysts are expecting a $0.14 per share profit this quarter, but I'd expect those estimates to get a bump after today's report. If oil and gas operating income had been flat in the past quarter, earnings per share would have been around $0.28. With potential like that, shares should move higher if Willbros can get that division straightened out.  

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