Opportunities Abound for This Great Design Company

In the third of a four-part series examining Stantec's (NYSE: STN  ) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, or SWOT, we take a close look at the company's opportunities.

In previous articles, we documented many of Stantec's strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we take a close look at three opportunities Stantec has to grow revenue, increase profitability, and deliver market-beating shareholder returns. 

International expansion
During its last fiscal year, Stantec generated just more than $2.2 billion in revenue, mostly from their operations in Canada and the U.S. Internationally, Stantec's revenue was just $78 million, or 3% of total revenue.

Stantec's international segment may be small, but it's growing fast. Its revenue increased by more than 30% in two years, up from just $58.8 million in 2011. And during the past year, 100% of that growth was organic; Stantec did not acquire any firms in its international segment during 2013.

A major contributor to Stantec's international growth is its mining practice, particularly underground engineering. It has grown despite the general slowdown in the industry and is well positioned to expand once mining activity begins to grow again.

They've got energy
In 2013, 43% of Stantec's revenue came from its Energy and Resources operating unit. And much of that can be attributed to its strength in western Canada's oil and gas economy.

Continued global demand for energy and healthy oil prices will support robust demand for Stantec's engineering services from large, international clients that transport oil and gas and need additional capacity for transport, storage, and distribution. Stantec continues to work on major export pipeline projects in Canada, transporting oil and natural gas east, west, and south to the U.S.

Stantec significantly strengthened its capabilities to support clients in both upstream and downstream oil and gas sectors, with its announced purchase of Process Unlimited International of Bakersfield, Calif., a 450-person multidisciplinary engineering, project management and design firm with offices throughout California, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee. The transaction is expected to close this month.

A falling loonie
During 2013, Stantec recorded a $26.1 million foreign exchange gain as a result of the Canadian dollar, or loonie, as our friends north of the border call it, falling in value from US$1.01 to US$0.94. Stantec does not hedge for this type of foreign exchange risk and, with so much revenue originating in the U.S., earns a tidy little sum when translating its foreign operations into Canadian dollars during times of weakness in the loonie. 

So far this year, the Canadian dollar has continued to lose value. Today, one Canadian dollar will buy you just US$0.90. A weaker Canadian dollar provides Stantec with some flexibility and presents it with an important strategic decision. A weaker currency increases revenue and profitability. But it can also enable Stantec to be more aggressive with pricing in the U.S., potentially winning more work without adversely affecting profitability.

Competitors, like Fluor (NYSE: FLR  ) and AECOM (NYSE: ACM  ) , which report in U.S. dollars, are negatively affected by a weak Canadian dollar.

Foolish bottom line
Stantec has clearly made the most of its past opportunities. The year 2014 marked the company's 60th consecutive year of profitability, and gross revenue has grown at a compound annual rate of 18.5% since this Canadian company became publicly traded in 1994. Continued international expansion, a weak Canadian dollar, and strength in the oil and gas sector provide Stantec with three opportunities to capitalize on in 2014.

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