February 23, 2012 / 12:07 AM / in 6 years

UPDATE 3-Fluor Q4 earnings top estimates, backlog slips

* Fluor Q4 EPS 90 cents vs 82 cents expected by Wall St

* KBR Q4 EPS 60 cents vs 64 cents expected

* Backlog down to $39.5 bln from record 3 months before

* Fluor shares down 1.4 pct after-hours

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Fluor Corp, the largest publicly traded U.S. engineering company, posted a higher-than-expected rise in quarterly earnings and remained upbeat despite an outlook for new projects clouded by wider economic worries.

Even with a $1.5 billion boost from a Syncrude Canada oil sands project, Fluor’s backlog of work fell to $39.5 billion at the end of 2011 from its record of $41.8 billion three months before. Its shares, having risen 28 percent in two months, fell 1.4 percent to $59.50 in thin after-hours trading.

The company maintained 2012 guidance for earnings per share at between $3.40 and $3.80, and said it expects to perform 63 percent of its backlog this year. Chief Executive David Seaton believed the overall backlog would grow in 2012, but said more importantly the pricing for the work would generally be higher.

“All in all, we’ll see some marginal increase,” he said on a conference call on Wednesday. “But I think what you’re going to see is an improvement in the quality of the margin in the backlog.”

Rival KBR Inc also maintained its earnings outlook for 2012, though its results on Wednesday were below expectations, with earnings per share of 60 cents compared with an average analyst estimate of 64 cents.

Fluor said its fourth-quarter net income rose 31 percent to $153 million, or 90 cents per share, from $117 million, or 65 cents per share, a year before. Analysts had expected 82 cents per share, according to the average estimate on Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue increased by 19 percent to $6.3 billion.

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