Fluor Earnings Call Nuggets: Improved Margins and Backlog and Faster Burn Projects

Fluor Corporation (NYSE:FLR) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Improved Margins and Backlog

Jamie Cook – Credit Suisse: A couple of questions and David you brought it on yourself. You said that margins and backlog had improved. So can you talk about specifically what you are seeing in Oil & Gas as some of your peers have come out and have talked about capacity tightening in particular in the U.S. Gulf Coast, if you are seeing any of that and what the impact and implications are for margins in the construction market longer term? Then you also said awards would be more, it sounded like balanced throughout the year relative to before I think it was more backend loaded, so you sound a little more constructive there? Last, ex the noise in I&I your margins were really good at 5%, 5.1%, so what drove that, and is that a function of somebody’s mining projects getting closer to completion? Sorry, I was out of the loop for a while, so I had a lot of questions.

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David T. Seaton – CEO: You only get one question, Jamie.

Jamie Cook – Credit Suisse: I know but I was out for three months, so I get more.

David T. Seaton – CEO: Okay, we’ll get you a free pass. No, I’ll throw you a bone there on the margin question and I’ll answer that and kind of where I think the markets are headed and probably answer some of the questions for the others. And I’ll ask Biggs to talk a little bit about the I&I margin specifically. We are seeing, I think, a pretty strong opportunity list within Oil & Gas and it is very diverse both in terms of market and geography. We’ve been very successful in obtaining the front-end design on a number of programs, and assuming that the regulatory environment is positive, it should be balanced as we go through the year. But I still think the significant EPC awards are back half of this year and into ’14. So, I think we’ve got the opportunity, I believe, just from the sheer amount of work that’s coming to grow past where we were in the refining boom as we get into ’14. We have seen improvement in margin in our backlog which is a good indicator of obviously future earnings, and that’s a function of, I think, the value proposition that we hold with our customers, but I think we are seeing a little bit of tightening, but more in terms of making sure that the operators have access to the teams that they want, which does kind of look a little bit like the ’07, ’08 kind of timeframe where they’re making sure they’ve got the project teams kind of committed to their other long-term programs and with that it allows us to enjoy a little bit better margin. So, I think the message is over the last half of this year and into ’14 we’ve got a pretty good growth story in Oil & Gas. We’ve already seen improving margins and our backlog, and we continue to see that continue as we go through ’13, which obviously results to better margins as we get into the back half of ’13 and into ’14. Biggs, you want to mention or comment on the I&I.