Like many other major builders, particularly those with ties to the petrochemical industry, Fluor's business is picking up. Revenue grew 39% in the first quarter to $2.9 billion; new project awards climbed 7% to $3.4 billion. Although operating margin slipped from the year-ago period, adjusted net income still grew 14% over last year.
In a nutshell, Fluor saw very strong year-over-year results in the oil/gas and industrial/infrastructure groups, good results in the global services business, and poor results in the government and power businesses.
Not surprisingly, the oil/gas results were fueled by the oil and gas sector's recent boom. Energy companies have more cash than they've had in many years, and they're spending some of it on much-needed infrastructure. Not only did Fluor's operating profit climb 93% for the quarter, but new awards were up 40% and the backlog increased 26% to $5.9 billion.
Although results in the power business were weak, better days could lie ahead. As I've often said before, the U.S. power infrastructure is in shaky condition. Sooner or later, new plants and other facilities will have to be built. Although the company's backlog of power business declined 12% to just under $500 million, new awards were up 290% and Fluor remains well-positioned to benefit from an eventual uptick in business.
Today, it would seem as though the majority of Fluor's business segments are in still the upward part of their cycles. Barring a total collapse in the energy market or the broader economy, Fluor should see at least a few more years of earnings growth from new projects.
Assessing the stock is a little tricky. Present-day valuations and metrics like profit margin and return on equity look OK, but not great. But these are the early days of what could be a cyclical upturn; many cyclically sensitive stocks look mediocre or downright junky at the start of an upswing. (See also: energy service companies and semiconductors.)
If new business materializes as expected, and Fluor succeeds in converting that business into solid profits and cash flow, large edifices won't be the only thing that Fluor succeeds in building.
Put on the hard hat and dig into these past Foolish construction Takes:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).