SNC-Lavalin tops profit estimates, shares rise

(Reuters) - Canadian construction and engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc SNC.TO on Thursday reported better-than-expected earnings for the final quarter of 2017 and gave a strong forecast for 2018, driving shares up 4 percent in afternoon trading.

Montreal-based SNC was helped by its 2017 acquisition of engineering and consultancy firm WS Atkins for C$3.6 billion ($2.83 billion) as a way to bolster its nuclear, rail, transportation and infrastructure businesses, while cutting exposure to the oil and gas industry.

“The integration of the Atkins business continues to progress well and will be fully completed in 2018,” SNC Chief Executive Neil Bruce said in a statement.

SNC forecast earnings of between C$3.60 and C$3.85 per share for 2018, while analysts on average were expecting C$2.80, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The forecast comes two weeks after SNC, along with partner Alstom SA ALSO.PA, was awarded a contract worth more than C$1 billion to provide rail cars for one of the world's biggest light rail systems in Montreal.

Analysts noted that SNC’s reported order backlog of $10.4 billion does not include the recently awarded Montreal project, along with a wind contract in Australia.

“Together these two awards would add over $2 billion to the backlog,” TD Securities analyst Michael Tupholme wrote in a note to clients.

SNC said net income attributable to shareholders rose to C$52.4 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 from C$1.6 million a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 78 Canadian cents per share, ahead of analysts’ expectations of 71 Canadian cents.

Revenue rose to C$2.92 billion from C$2.21 billion last year.

($1 = 1.2707 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Lisa Shumaker