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SNC Lavalin beats earnings expectations as engineering services in hot demand in U.S.

The Canadian Press
SNC Lavalin beats earnings expectations as engineering services in hot demand in U.S.

MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. raised its financial forecast for the year on the heels of healthy organic revenue growth, as the company chipped away at a costly backlog of big, over-budget rail contracts.

Recently, the engineering firm projected organic revenue growth of between 12 and 15 per cent in 2023, more than doubling its previous prediction of between five and seven per cent.

The second-quarter figures underwrite SNC’s confidence. Its engineering services saw 25.1 per cent organic growth year-over-year to $1.47 billion in revenue, accounting for more than two-thirds of the company’s total revenue.

SNC hit organic revenue growth “out of the park,” said Desjardins analyst Benoit Poirier in a note to investors.

Overall services bookings climbed nine per cent year over year to a record-high backlog of $12.4 billion, fuelled by demand for SNC’s engineering services in the United States.

“In the U.S., we continue to reap the benefits of our increased foothold in the market and the government’s commitment to infrastructure spending,” CEO Ian Edwards told analysts on a conference call, describing the opportunities south of the border as “plentiful.”

Edwards pointed to the massive funding injection from the U.S. government via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. He also cited “key wins this quarter” related to electric vehicle battery plants.

The ongoing demand has prompted SNC to hire 2,400 employees since the start of the year, Edwards said.

Meanwhile, the company’s challenges with so-called lump-sum turnkey (LSTK) projects took less of a toll on its finances than in previous years, as the segment posted a loss of $13 million before interest and taxation versus $37 million a year earlier and consensus forecasts of $19 million in losses.

SNC knocked another $96 million off its LSTK backlog from three months earlier, reducing it to a still hefty $422 million – but down from $828 million a year prior.

Under Edwards’ stewardship since June 2019, SNC-Lavalin has shifted its focus to engineering and consulting services and away from lump-sum projects – fixed-price contracts under which companies must pay for any cost overruns themselves. It also sold off the last of its flagging oil and gas businesses in August 2021.

In recent quarters, the three fixed-price construction contracts bearing the bulk of the company’s adjusted losses in its LSTK segment were Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown light-rail transit system, Ottawa’s Trillium Line and the greater Montreal area’s REM light-rail network extension.

“Testing and commissioning on our two Ontario projects is proceeding as scheduled. Our last project, REM, continues to progress well, with the South Shore portion having successfully opened on July 31,” said Edwards – though the inauguration was marred by three disruptions.

“As we finalize the LSTK projects for our clients, we continue to pursue recoveries that are owed to us,” he added, citing disputes around extra costs piled on by COVID-19 work hold-ups, supply chain disruptions, inflation and strike action.

SNC also reported net income grew to $63.8 million for the three months ended June 30, towering over profits of $1.6 million from the same period the year before.

Revenues rose 14 per cent to $2.13 billion in the second quarter versus $1.87 billion a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, diluted earnings notched 41 cents per share compared with 31 cents per share the year before.

The outcome beat analyst expectations of 30 cents per share, according to financial markets firm Refinitiv.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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