The energy industry played a vital role in the booming U.S. economy in recent years, supporting not just exploration and production companies but also the supporting businesses that provide necessary products and services. Infrastructure construction company MasTec (NYSE:MTZ) benefited from the demand for energy-related projects, but oil's plunge in late 2014 called into question the economic viability of many plans for future business. Coming into Tuesday's third-quarter financial report, MasTec investors knew that the company would see tough results, but the reality was worse than expected, and poor guidance for the rest of 2015 had investors having to look to next year for the potential for relief. Let's look more closely at MasTec's latest results and whether the company has a chance to rebound in the near future.
MasTec keeps slumping
MasTec's third-quarter results continued to reflect poor conditions throughout the sectors of the economy that it relies on for its business prospects. Revenue more than 15% to $1.11 billion, falling short of the $1.14 billion that most investors were looking to see from the company. Net income attributable to MasTec plunged almost 85% to $7.6 million, and even after adding back some extraordinary items, adjusted earnings of $0.26 per share were down by more than half from year-ago figures and missed the consensus estimate by $0.07 per share.
MasTec's segment results were quite mixed. The company enjoyed relative strength in the communications and power generation segments, with both divisions posting modest gains in revenue from year-ago levels. Yet the oil and gas segment took a 27% hit, with revenue falling to $406.9 million, and the electrical transmission unit saw an even steeper drop on a percentage basis, declining 45%. Results were similar looking at the divisions on an operating-profit basis, with small declines in communications and power generation but major drops in oil and gas profits and an actual loss in the electrical transmission segment.
CEO Jose Mas nevertheless characterized the difficulties as temporary in nature. "While we are disappointed with our results in 2015," Mas said, "we believe it will prove to be a transitional year. We continue to be very encouraged about our growth prospects in 2016 and beyond."
What will make MasTec soar?
In particular, Mas pointed to the company's strong backlog, which has continued to grow and reached record levels of $4.6 billion during the quarter. "We expect continued significant backlog growth during the fourth quarter," Mas said, "including over $1.5 billion in additional oil & gas projects awarded to us, which we expect will be included in backlog during the fourth quarter when these contracts are fully executed." The strength in the energy sector is something few investors seemed to believe possible, given that stubbornly low oil prices have persisted so far throughout 2015.
Still, MasTec once again cut back on its guidance for the year. The company now believes revenue will finish between $4.1 billion and $4.15 billion, down $100 million to $150 million from its previous range. Adjusted earnings per share of $0.53 to $0.60 would similarly be $0.20 or more per share below the previous range. Fourth-quarter revenue of $900 million to $1 billion and non-GAAP earnings of $0.10 to $0.17 are also well below consensus estimates among those following the stock.
The real question for MasTec is how quickly put-off energy projects come through. Fluor (NYSE:FLR) has suffered lately from weakness in the energy and mining sectors, but optimists argue that low commodity prices only delay future projects rather than making them disappear forever. Like MasTec, Fluor stock has gotten pummeled over the past couple of years, but some investors are starting to think that the worst of Fluor's revenue declines are behind it. Just as Fluor could rebound from rising oil, so too could MasTec see more once-delayed projects come in through the door in a more favorable environment.
MasTec didn't react strongly immediately following the announcement, suggesting that shareholders were largely prepared for downbeat news. If that's the case, then it might well be that the stock doesn't have anywhere to go but up, and any success in implementing the company's long-term strategy could result in sizable share-price gains for those courageous enough to take the plunge.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends MasTec. The Motley Fool owns shares of Fluor. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.