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Chicago Bridge & Iron N.V. (NYSE:CBI)

Q4 2012 Earnings Call

February 27, 2013 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Philip K. Asherman - Chief Executive Officer, President and Supervisory Director

Lasse Petterson - Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President

Daniel M. McCarthy - Executive Vice President and President of Lummus Technology

Ronald A. Ballschmiede - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

Michael S. Dudas - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division

Andy Kaplowitz - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Martin W. Malloy - Johnson Rice & Company, L.L.C., Research Division

Steven Fisher - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Jamie L. Cook - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Will Gabrielski - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Tahira Afzal - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

John B. Rogers - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division

George O'Leary - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc., Research Division

Robert F. Norfleet - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Robert V. Connors - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Operator

Good afternoon. My name is Jody, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the CB&I Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Before beginning today's call, the company would like to caution you regarding forward-looking statements. Any statements made or discussed today that do not constitute or are not historical facts, particularly comments regarding the company's future plans and expected performance are forward-looking statements that are based on assumptions the company believes are reasonable, but are subject to a range of uncertainties and risks that are summarized in the company's press release and the SEC filings. While forward-looking statements represent management's best current judgment as to what may occur in the future, the actual outcomes or results may differ materially from what is expressed or implied in any such statements.

Now I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Philip Asherman, President and CEO of CB&I. Please go ahead.

Philip K. Asherman

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us as we report Chicago Bridge & Iron's Fourth Quarter and Year End 2012 Results. With me today are CB&I's Chief Operating Officer, Lasse Petterson, who will report on project backlog and steel plate structures; Dan McCarthy, President of Lummus Technology; and our Chief Financial Officer, Ron Ballschmiede, who will discuss our overall financial performance.

We're very pleased to report a very strong quarter and a great year. A metric we're exceptionally proud of this year is achievement of 0 lost time accidents in our project in engineering and construction group. This 0 represents nearly 40 million man-hours, both direct and subcontract, on projects from Canada to Serbia, Colombia to Papua New Guinea and everywhere in between. This is an outstanding achievement by all of those responsible for our projects and offices around the world.

Our Steel Plate Structure business also had an extraordinary safety record with only 4 lost time accidents in 30 million man-hours, including all of our field and fabrication sites. As CB&I in total has not had a single fatality in over 2.5 years and 170 million man-hours work, we thank everyone for their dedication to the basic principle that nobody gets hurt at CB&I, and proving 0 accidents is certainly possible.

Now we remain very confident that with our focus in LNG, gas processing, petrochemicals, offshore and other engineering construction opportunities, combined with the great returns we are seeing from our technology sector and our global market position in the fabrication erection of steel plate structures, we are entering 2013 in an extremely strong position to capitalize on the continuing development of energy infrastructure in the U.S. and around the world. And as Ron will reaffirm, our 2013 guidance for CB&I, which we provided in December, is unchanged.

Some of the new business we were awarded in the fourth quarter include: Aramco storage tanks and spheres in Saudi Arabia, spheres in Equador, a Co2 removal plant for Exxon Australia, offshore marine field developments for DSME and Statoil in the North Sea, technology awards from Shell in Singapore and Westlake in the U.S., plus a petrochemical owner in Korea. And the last one, Dan will provide the detail, but I wanted to highlight the broad diversity in our new awards and the fact that we entered 2013 with $11 billion of backlog.

And while each of our business sectors experienced substantial growth over the last year in revenue income from operations and new business, we should highlight that Lummus Technology exceeded all of our prior forecasts and posted record numbers in earnings and new awards, but I'll let Dan tell that story in a moment.

Looking forward, we're confident in our end markets, producing results that can potentially exceed our expectations, particularly if one or more of the mega LNG projects we're currently involved with in the early works receive final go-ahead for an EPC contract.

We're also seeing the continuation of the petrochemical and gas processing projects being developed in the U.S., and the global storage market continues to be strong in most geographic areas. While technology sales are increasing in the fast pace as the U.S., Russia, Asia Pacific drive global petrochemical growth in ethylene and derivatives.

But before we report the details of CB&I year-end results, I want to briefly mention the new CB&I, which as you know, reached financial close on the Shaw acquisition on February 13, following the achievement of all of the conditions specified in our agreement and approved by well over 90% of the shareholders. So until we get all the numbers merged and forecasted, leading up to our Investor Day guidance on March 28, it's premature to say much at this point, except that the immediate transition was virtually seamless, as offices, with all of 250,000 employees up on CB&I email, CB&I signs on the offices and at the project sites and in our fabrication facilities, 26,000 new CB&I hard hats issued and much more, and all happened on Day 1. Many thanks go to those at both companies who worked so hard to ensure that we became one CB&I on February 13.

The integration continues. And if you've noted the organization announcements that were released the first day, beginning in the first quarter, we'll be reporting to you results in 4 operating groups: technology; ECM, or engineering construction and maintenance; fabrication services; and government solutions.

The name should be fairly self-explanatory, but it continues our goal of scaling our business model by grouping like businesses together to leverage the talent and the unique commercial aspects of each unit. Again, the overall mix of the combined company will be a better geographical balance of 50-50 U.S. to international backlog, 50-50 between fixed-price and reimbursable or hybrid contracts and most important is that over 75% -- 70% of our total earnings will come from a much more diverse and predictable revenue stream than in a model that is solely dependent on engineering and construction projects.

So I'll pause here and turn it over to Lasse, Dan and Ron for the quarter 4 and year-end results. Lasse?

Lasse Petterson

Thank you, Phil. Good afternoon. As in the last earnings call, I'll give my comments on some trends in our key markets, including the new awards this quarter and then provide a brief update on some of our larger, ongoing projects.

Market trends are positive in all our oil and gas markets. LNG liquefaction projects are developing in Australia and U.S. and Russia, as previously reported. And we now see new projects emerging in Canada and East Africa. We have completed the FEED for the Browse and Arrow projects in Australia, and the Yamal projects in Russia. Both Browse and Yamal is targeting EPC contractor selection and final investment decision during 2013.

In North America, we are currently executing the FEED studies for the conversion of existing LNG import terminals to export terminals at both Freeport, Texas and at Cove Point, Maryland. In December, we were awarded a front-end engineering contract by Anadarko for our liquefaction plant in Mozambique.

The petrochemical products market continued to be strong worldwide, with high demands for ethylene, propylene, butadiene, ammonia, ammonium nitrate and other related derivatives.

In the U.S., shale gas production with liquid rich gas has resulted in a surge of new petrochemical projects, as well as associated storage tank prospects. As previously reported, CB&I have been awarded contracts from both Williams and Westlake for new ethylene production expansion, and we have begun basic engineering FEED work for Occidental on a grassroots ethylene plant.

In Europe, we were awarded a butadiene extraction unit in Antwerp, Belgium by BASF. And further east, we're executing an ethylene FEED and extended basic engineering contract for NKNK in Tatarstan, Russia.

Within gas processing, we were awarded an EPC project by DONG on their Hejre Crude Stabilization Project in Jutland, Denmark, valued in excess of USD 175 million. And we were awarded a major EPC contract by Exxon for their Longford gas plant in Victoria Australia, valued at more than USD 550 million.

The offshore oil and gas market is also strong, particularly in the North Sea, where we, in the fourth quarter, were awarded the Topsides engineering for Statoil's Mariner field in the U.K. sector, together with DSME, valued in excess of USD 250 million. And we were awarded the Topsides engineering contract for Statoil's Aasta Hansteen field in the Norwegian sector, together with Hyundai, valued approximately at USD 150 million. This is the first time a spar platform, a deep floater concept used in the Gulf of Mexico, will be installed in the North Sea and the top size weight will be above 20,000 tons. This award will be in our first quarter 2013 report.

On floating LNG, we are engaged in 3 feed studies, and we are developing EPC pricing for these projects together with partners. Both the offshore and floating LNG market provide opportunities where we can leverage our technology and engineering competences into enhanced EPC project participation.

Steel Plate Structures has added a number of small and medium-size storage tanks projects in strong markets in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. The largest new award was for Sadara Aramco Dow in Saudi Arabia valued in excess of USD 110 million.

In Asia, the market for LNG import terminals is active and we are hopeful to announce a new terminal award this quarter.

With awards in the fourth quarter of USD 2.8 billion, our new awards for 2012 reached $7.3 billion and our backdrop is close to $11 billion for CB&I, with a good mix between reimbursable and lump sum contracts.

Moving to our existing projects, I will start with the projects engineering and construction business sector. The construction work at REFICAR's new refinery in Cartagena, Colombia is progressing well. All 85 process modules from our fabrication yard in Beaumont has been received and most installed at site along with 1,300 pieces of equipment, 26,000 tons of field erected steel and over 350,000 feet of pipe. Our manpower in the project currently exceeds 9,500, and we are now busy connecting the modules with piping hookup and have begun E&I works.

In Canada, on the Kearl initial development project, construction work is nearly complete and the client is now commissioning the plant.

On the sister project, the Kearl Expansion Project, engineering is complete, and we have started work in the field, north of Fort McMurray. A new module assembly yard at Fort Saskatchewan is fully operational and 263 modules for Kearl Expansion project and Kearl Expansion interconnect pipe rack will be built there and then installed at the Kearl site in 2013 and '14.

In the U.S. at Dominion's gas processing plant in Natrium, West Virginia, mechanical completion for the first phase is scheduled for March. The work at site has been somewhat delayed by the storm, Sandy, and heavy winter weather.

In Europe, the NIS Pancevo Oil Refinery modernization project in Serbia has been completed. And on the BASF project at Belgium, engineering is ongoing in our Hague office and we are mobilized at the site. In the U.K., our work to install an additional LNG import pipeline at the Isle of Grain terminal is proceeding well and on schedule to be completed in the third quarter this year. The engineering works for Nexen's Golden Eagle platform is nearing completion, and we are mobilizing now for Statoil's Mariner project.

In Papua New Guinea, on Exxon's Hides Gas Conditioning plant in the highlands, as stated last quarter, engineering is complete. Procurement, materials and equipment has now been finalized and in the process of being shipped to the site. The on-site construction has encouraged some delay due to the challenging logistics of bringing materials and equipment to the site, and the client is constructing an airstrip that can land Antonov cargo planes that can carry the 40-ton major equipment packages to site once the airstrip is complete later this year.

I said earlier, we were awarded an EPC contract by Exxon for more than USD 550 million to build a gas processing plant in Victoria, Australia. We're currently mobilizing the product management and engineering team in our Singapore office.

Shifting to our Steel Plate Structures business sector, progress on our 4 containment vessels for the 2 nuclear projects, Vogtle and Summer, has been good in the period with welling [ph] quality continuing to be excellent.

In Canada and the U.S., we have several large conventional storage tanks contracts underway, all of which are progressing on schedule. And in the Middle East, the GASCO project in Abu Dhabi has been completed well ahead of the original schedule, and the client continues to engage CB&I on additional mechanical work on a reimbursable basis.

Shifting to Australia on the Gorgon MEI project, we have mobilized more than 500 strong management team in Perth, and we have received and installed first [ph] 19 modules on the permanent foundations, and additional 59 modules has been received on Barrow Island. Our project staffing on the island is close to 300, which is less than originally planned.

Over the next year, we will receive in total more than 400 modules coming from 4 fabrication yards in Asia. This is a construction-only contract for CB&I and with all engineering, materials, logistics and process module fabrication provided by the client. The majority of the construction scope will be performed in 2013 and '14 and at peak, more than 4,000 CB&I employees will be engaged on the project.

We're also constructing two 180,000 cubic meter of full containment LNG tanks for the Gorgon project. The roof raise for both tanks has been successfully completed, well ahead of this year's cyclone season, and we are now proceeding with welding the 9 nickel tanks, well protected from any adverse weather.

Both our contracts on Barrow Island has experienced a slower ramp up than initially planned, transferring work scope into 2013 and '14. This has been due to delays experienced by the clients' civil contractor, as well as difficult logistics associated with the island location. Our plans has been modified to accommodate these changes.

On Curtis Island on the East Coast of Australia, we are erecting 2 full containment 160,000 cubic meter LNG tanks for ConocoPhillips APLNG project. The project is progressing on schedule.

And last year, we were awarded a USD 225 million EPC contract for LNG Peak Shaving facility in New South Wales, Australia, which includes a 63,000 cubic meter single containment LNG storage tanks. The engineering is progressing well, and we are mobilized to the site.

And finally, a project on the coast of Papua New Guine,a, close to Port Moresby, where we are building 2 single containment, 160,000 cubic meter, LNG storage tanks for Exxon's LNG project is on schedule to be completed this year.

I will now hand it over to Dan to comment on Lummus Technology.

Daniel M. McCarthy

Thank you, Lasse, and good afternoon. As a charter member of this 25-year old technology business, I am honored and excited to be able to report on behalf of those who have developed this business in the past, as well as those who have executed the work in 2012.

New rewards for the fourth quarter totaled $144 million, bringing the annual total to $727 million. This exceeds last year's record of $538 million by 35%.

While we do not specify details of the CLG's performance, it also had a breakout year. If their new awards were added to those of Lummus Technology, the result would be over $1 billion. These awards are driving income from operations, which was $40.9 million for the fourth quarter and $126 million for the year. CLG, through the equity income line, had a large contribution to income from operations in the fourth quarter.

Cash generation was also strong. The new awards in the fourth quarter were led by 2 ethylene furnace projects associated with ethylene plant expansions; one in the United States and one in Asia-Pacific. There are also 3 license awards associated with C4 processing. The first was a gasoline alkylate plant, our fourth alkylate project in 2012. The second was a plant to dehydrogenate C4s for further processing. And the third was a facility to chemically synthesize butadiene from butane.

On the CLG side, the fourth quarter sales are extremely high with 3 license awards and enormous amount of catalyst sales.

I would like to come back to the butadiene project award. Butadiene is a critical building block for the synthetic rubber industry. The demand for buta-3 rubber continues to grow, but the supply of butadiene is constrained. Almost all butadiene is produced as a byproduct of ethylene plants using liquid feedstocks. However, feedstock economics have incentivized ethylene producers to switch from liquid to gas feeds. A new plant capacity in the Middle East and the United States will be based on ethane.

To overcome the butadiene supply constraint, we have been promoting a chemical synthesis route with the trade name CATADIENE for a number of years. In the fourth quarter, we secured our first license with an Asian petrochemical producer who will supply raw material to a tire manufacturer. As with the gasoline alkylate business, we believe that this first license opens the door to multiple opportunities around the world.

The refining business was surprisingly robust in 2012. While operating rates and profit margins continued to challenge refiners, we saw significant improvements in licensing catalyst sales. The projects often represent additional processing capability in existing refineries to address fuel specs or to produce upgraded products such as lubricants.

For 2013, our prospect list supports the continued strong market for petrochemicals and refining. The ethylene and propylene prospect backlog remains healthy, leveraging feedstocks recovered from shale gas. These projects are not only being planned in the United States, but also internationally. Additionally, ethylene licenses awarded in 2011 and 2012 should generate substantial opportunity for heat transfer equipment sales. Our forecast indicates new awards in 2013 will include a higher percentage of heat transfer equipment.

In previous earnings calls, when Lummus Technology's new awards have been in the range of $140 million to $150 million, there have been questions about whether we are now operating on a new plateau. I would like to provide some perspective on that issue.

Part of our growth is certainly attributable to very high levels of investments in petrochemical projects. Market dynamics indicate that petrochemical investments will continue to be strong, but more important is the impact of new technology on our business.

In 2012, we introduced new technology products, such as paraxylene, CATADIENE and butadiene, new olefins conversion applications, gasoline alkylation, hydrogen purification and even biojet fuel production. The new award value for these technologies is approximately $120 million. We anticipate these markets will continue to generate new revenue opportunities. So indeed, there is a significant organic growth through product diversification.

In summary, we will continue to exploit traditional and newly introduced technologies. The addition of hydrogen and sulfur recovery technologies will integrate well with our CLG technology offerings. The organizations associated with these technologies will create better opportunities for us to supply components and modules desired by our licensees. We will continue to pursue opportunities to broaden our technology portfolio through acquisition, partnering and R&D. Finally, we will take strides to position ourselves to expand our catalyst business.

Thank you for your attention. And I will turn the call over to Ron.

Ronald A. Ballschmiede

Thanks, Dan, and good afternoon, everyone. With that overview of our major sector activities and our markets around the world, let me take you through our financial performance for another strong quarter and year.

Revenue for the fourth quarter was $1.5 billion, up $282 million or 22% from the fourth quarter of 2011. Full year revenue totaled $5.5 billion, up from $4.6 billion in 2011 or up 21%. The year-over-year revenue increase was consistent with our expectations and reflects our higher beginning of the period backlog and continued increase of construction activity on our major projects and increasing revenues from Lummus Technology.

We previously announced our CB&I standalone 2013 revenue guidance range of $6.3 billion to $6.7 billion, an indicative increase of 19% based upon the midpoint of our guidance. This revenue growth reflects the continued high activity in ramp up of several large projects in our backlog and the absolute increase in our year-over-year backlog.

Our 2013 revenue burn is expected to be 45% to 50% of our record 2012 backlog of $10.9 billion. This backlog burn compares to 40% to 45% for 2012 and reflects the increase in construction activities of our long-duration projects, such as Gorgon MEI and the PNG gas plant.

Finally, with our strong backlog position, we expect our 2013 first quarter revenues to be generally consistent with our 2012 fourth quarter and subsequent quarterly revenue increasing some mixing sequentially throughout 2013.

Our gross profit for the fourth quarter set a high watermark at $198 million compared to $147 million in 2011. Our gross profit for the quarter was 12.9% of revenue, positively impacted by the strong fourth quarter performance of Lummus Technology.

The full year gross profit of $699 million or 12.7% of revenue reflects $128 million increase over 2011. Each of our sectors contributed significant revenue, gross profit and operating income growth.

Selling and administrative expense remains well controlled, decreasing to 3.9% of revenue for the fourth quarter and 4.2% for the full year, reflecting a 10 and 30 basis point improvement over the comparable periods.

As discussed in our December guidance call, our CB&I standalone 2013 selling and administrative expense is expected to increase in the mid-single-digit percentage range. The increase reflects global inflation and a minor volume impact, essentially repeating the estimate-related operating leverage improvement, which we experienced in 2012.

As an important reminder, when thinking of stock-based compensation cost, GAAP requires certain stock-based compensation to retiree eligible participants to be expensed in the quarter in which the awards are made. CB&I's long-term incentive compensation awards are made in the first quarter. Consequently, the aforementioned accounting results in almost 2/3 of our full year stock-based compensation expense being recorded in the first quarter, predominantly within S&A

In terms of EPS, the expense in the first quarter of 2013 is expected to incrementally exceed the stock-based compensation expense of the second, third and fourth quarters by approximately $0.15 per share.

Other operating expense includes Shaw-related transaction costs of $6 million and $11 million for the fourth quarter and full year, respectively. Additionally, Shaw-related financing commitment costs were $5.5 million and $7.2 million for those same periods. On a combined basis, Shaw-related costs reduced our earnings by $0.09 in the fourth quarter and $0.15 for the full year.

Fourth quarter operating income totaled $139 million, our best quarter on record, or 9% of revenues. Full year operating income totaled $456 million, also an all-time high, reflecting a 28% increase over our 2011 results.

Over the trailing 3-year period, our operating margins have totaled 8.1% of revenues, reflecting the quality of our backlog, solid project execution and the relative contribution of each of our sectors.

Net interest expense for 2012 fourth quarter totaled $6 million, an increase of $5 million over the comparable 2011 quarter and increased $8 million to $12 million for the full year. The change for each of these periods was predominantly the Shaw-related financing commitment cost I spoke to earlier.

Our income tax rate was 26.7% for the quarter and 28.6% for the full year. We do expect our 2013 effective income tax rate to increase slightly, reflecting the changing geographic mix of our backlog to higher tax rate jurisdictions.

Our net income to noncontrolling interest increased by $7 million for the fourth quarter and $15 million for the full year, reflecting the increased activities of our 2 large projects with 35% minority partners, specifically Gorgon MEI and the PNG gas plant. We expect consolidated noncontrolling interest to be slightly in excess of $30 million in 2013.

The summation of all that results in the fourth quarter net income of $90 million or $0.91 per diluted share, and earnings per share on the full year of $3.07, an all-time high for the fourth consecutive year. EBITDA totaled $154 million in the fourth quarter and $522 million for the year, or 10% and 9.5% of revenues, respectively.

Finally, as a reminder, in December, we've provided 2013 CB&I standalone EPS guidance of $3.35 to $3.65.

Phil, Lasse and Dan spoke to our new awards and prospect activity, so I'll provide some overall comments. Our new awards for the fourth quarter totaled $2.9 billion and totaled $7.4 billion for the full year, which provides us with a full year book burn of 1.33. We announced major awards during the quarter of approximately $1.1 billion, spread nicely around the world amongst our sectors and project types. Fourth quarter new awards of smaller projects were approximately $800 million, with a balance reflecting contract growth from several of our large projects.

Our prospects going into 2013, including our already announced awards, which Lasse spoke about earlier, provide us with confidence of our new our guidance of $7 billion to $10 billion for 2013.

Our backlog totaled $10.9 billion at the end of the year compared to $9 billion at the beginning of the year. As I previously mentioned, our 2012 backlog burn is expected to be 45% to 50%, and based on our new award and revenue guidance, we expect to grow backlog again in 2013.

Now let me take you through the sectors' fourth quarter results. Each of our sectors' fourth quarter and full year results were within our expected range of operating results, which we have discussed previously, specifically, our performance expectations and operating income in the range of 7% to 10% for Steel Plate Structures, 3% to 6% for PEC and annual operating income for Lummus Technology in the $125 million range.

Steel Plate Structures reported fourth quarter and full year 2012 revenues of $542 million and $1 billion respectively -- I'm sorry, $2 billion, respectively, an increase of 14% and 18% over the respective prior periods. The increase is attributable to the ramp-up of our Asia Pacific LNG projects, offset somewhat by the completion of large tank projects in the Middle East and the Caribbean. The Asia Pacific LNG work will continue to ramp up and we expect significant revenue growth from these projects in 2013. Operating income totaled $55 million or 10.1% of revenue for the fourth quarter, and $193 million or 9.8% for the full year. Our 2012 operating results generally benefited from higher revenue volume and better cost recoveries from increased construction activities.

Project engineering and construction revenues totaled $848 million in the fourth quarter, up $194 million, a strong 30% increase over 2011. For the full year, PEC's revenue increased 33% to $3 billion. The revenue increase for both the quarter and the year was driven by greater construction activities on our Colombia refining project and gas processing plants in PNG in the United States.

Income from operations totaled $43 million or 5.1% of revenue for the fourth quarter, compared to $29 million or 4.5% in 2011. For the full year, income from operations totaled $137 million or 4.5%. Our 2012 operating results benefited from the additional volume of work, somewhat offset by a percentage of revenue base because of higher percentage of completion of revenue we generated from our cost reimbursable projects and higher pre-contract spend on the large projects, which Lasse described earlier.

Finally, Lummus Technology had another fabulous quarter, reporting operating income of $41 million, up $11 million over the fourth quarter of 2011. Full year operating income totaled $126 million, up $30 million or 31% over the prior year.

Fourth quarter and full year revenues and operating results benefited from the continued strength of the petrochemical demand and the improving refining market, which Dan just described.

Now a few comment on our balance sheet, cash flow and other financial matters, as we have many positive developments in the quarter. Our balance sheet and liquidity remained strong with a cash balance of $643 million compared to $672 million at the beginning of the year. This strong cash position reflects investments in growing our business through capital expenditures of $72 million and making the final installment on our Lummus acquisition debt of $40 million earlier this -- in the third quarter -- in the fourth quarter of 2012.

In addition, we returned $143 million of cash to our shareholders through $123 million of stock repurchases and approximately $20 million of cash dividends.

We had no revolver borrowings in 2012. Our borrowings to execute the Shaw acquisition totaled $1.8 billion, which includes a 4-year $1 billion term loan and an $800 million senior note issuance, maturing over 5 to 12 years. In order to lock in the favorable terms of the senior notes, we completed that transaction on December 28, 2012. Accordingly, you will note that both borrowings and $800 million of restricted cash on our year-end balance sheet. Obviously, that cash was utilized earlier this month as part of the Shaw transaction consideration.

Our investment and contract capital, reflecting the combined balances of receivables, contracts in progress and accounts payable, stands at a negative $357 million at the end of the year compared to $700 million at the beginning of the year, primarily due to the decline -- is primarily due to the changing mix of our projects and the timing of receivable collections. We expect that a portion of the 2012 change will be recovered in 2013.

In closing, our strong backlog and financial position provided us with the necessary financial flexibility to deliver our projects to our owners and take advantage of the energy market demand for our services. We continue to be well positioned to take advantage of opportunities to grow our company and are committed to continuing to provide strong return to our shareholders. Phil?

Philip K. Asherman

Thanks, Ron. Now we'll open the call for your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Michael Dudas from Sterne Agee.

Michael S. Dudas - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division

First question is -- look, I won't get you and we'll until March for all the questions on the new CB&I. But as you're looking -- you had a terrific Q4 results. As you look into the first part of 2013 on the new business and looking at your fabrication utilization, do you sense, generally, that business trends are still quite good? Is that translating to better negotiated strength for contracts in some of your key markets?

Philip K. Asherman

If you are talking just fabrication, first, I think as Lasse indicated, the Steel Plate Structures, -- and again, as you'll see from the organization, we still have 2 distinct units under fabrication services, Steel Plate Structures and the fabrication manufacturing business that we acquired look very strong. We don't see any dilution of the historically, I think, good margins that Shaw had generated for the fabrication manufacturing. They still have a very good external and global market that we plan to capitalize on. And with Steel Plate Structures, the global storage demand is still very, very strong in most of the geographic areas that we work in. So the combination of the 2 becomes how do we increase and maximize any efficiencies between both legacy businesses. And I think there's a tremendous opportunity there.

Michael S. Dudas - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division

Fair enough. And just to follow-up, maybe on Ron's last comment about debt and cash flow, et cetera, maybe you can remind us how we're thinking about capital deployment debt repayment versus share or return or additional acquisitions or investment in the company -- in the new company?

Philip K. Asherman

Yes, I'll let Ron talk to the detail, but just to give you a sense of what we're going to talk about at Investor Day in the breakout session, that we are going to talk about our capital utilization plan going forward and talk about how we do plan to deploy the capital. But Ron, do you want to add some color to that?

Ronald A. Ballschmiede

Absolutely. I think the objective from the beginning of doing the funding for the Shaw transaction was to accomplish a couple of things, notably, to remain an investment grade credit, which we of course accomplished, but also to have financial flexibility and some very long-term capital. So as we look at that $1.8 billion -- when you start dissecting it, as I mentioned, that $800 million comes through -- comes to somewhere between, in tranches, between 5 and 12 years. So it's a nice mix of -- that's our fixed price, a little bit under 5% and $1 billion of borrowings, which is a 4-year term debt that can be pre-paid without penalty. Having said that, the intent would be to certainly run 2013 and make sure we understand all the characteristics of what we would acquire and be relatively.

conservative about making big moves on paying down debt or otherwise. We always want the ability to grow our business, particularly the technology side for opportunities that come up around new technologies. I think after that, what we would look at is continuing to have powder to do transactions, but also revisit, as we've done in the past, the way we return money to our shareholders. So first opportunity is continue to grow, second one is to -- obviously, we want to continue our dividends. And then lastly, return some money to our shareholders when it makes some sense. And I think the crystal ball would be, out there, years -- back end of year 2 and 3 and 4, see some pretty heavy debt repayments in excess of the amortization. So that, if you take yourself out 5 years, we'd probably have worked that debt down to, give or take, $1 billion and be very comfortable that even at that point in time, our debt has an average duration of around $8 billion -- I mean, 8 years. So that's sort of the master plan on that. To the most extent, much similar to what we've been doing for the last 4 , 5 years, taking advantage of all those 3 levers.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Andrew Kaplowitz from Barclays.

Andy Kaplowitz - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Dan or Ron or Phil, can you talk about Lummus Technology a little more in the context of -- you mentioned you're sort of on a new playing field. You've done $41 million in operating profit for the last couple of quarters. Can you sustain that kind of momentum going forward on a quarterly basis? I think your guidance was $125 million for '13. But I don't know, the transcript from last quarter says $225 million. So maybe you could just give us some color there.

Philip K. Asherman

I'll let Dan give you the detail on it, Andy. But again, I think the takeaway that Dan was trying to talk about was the absolute value we're getting from new technologies. So that's kind of the plateau that we were talking about. Dan, is that correct?

Daniel M. McCarthy

Yes, absolutely, with $120 million worth of sales in new technology. So we think our -- going to be -- it's a lumpy business. I'm not going to say it's going to be $120 million every year. But as a mean, it's probably not a bad number to think about. And that generates our typical margins. So if you've followed us over a few years, you'd sort of see what the additional amount could be.

Andy Kaplowitz - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Right. But Dan, without sort of pinning you down, you're at decently higher run rate than $120 million or $125 million. Fair?

Daniel M. McCarthy

Excuse me?

Philip K. Asherman

A run rate of about $120 million, $125 million.

Daniel M. McCarthy

The run rates going forward?

Andy Kaplowitz - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Yes. I mean of earnings. I mean, that -- the second half of the game.

Daniel M. McCarthy

Well, that's our -- that's always our objective, is to try to get that up. We're not going to necessarily commit to $160 million. No. Of course not. Even in the year, there's a cycle. Right? But I think that -- Ron has talked about $125 million as a guidance number, and that's a pretty safe one.

Philip K. Asherman

I think, Andy, we'd just have to consider time line. When you look at some of the new technologies and the application that Dan and his group have now sold in the marketplace, we're talking 2 or 3 years of development and research time, as well as putting these very difficult acquisitions together. So that's got a certain time line associated that you don't necessarily see obviously in the other parts of our business. I think the point is we're going to continue down that track. We're always looking for new linkages, as Dan described, in a variety of areas. So we expect to still get continued growth, not just out of the mature business but new technologies in new ways that we approach the business.

Ronald A. Ballschmiede

Yes. And, Andy, maybe to help you a little bit, that $225 million obviously was some kind of typo with whoever did the transcript. But we started the year with -- talking about Lummus Technology as a $110 million bogey, if you will. And based upon the strength of the year, that cap moved up to $120 million to $125 million. So that's probably right where we -- obviously right where we wound up, a little bit better than that. So we'll see if we can repeat that performance next year. But right now, we're staying with the $125 million to start the year anyways.

Andy Kaplowitz - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay. That's fair, guys. Phil, if we could step back, think about the U.S. sort of petrochemical ramp up here, I often get the question around sort of the risk of labor productivity in the U.S. Gulf Coast. CBI is very comfortable doing fixed-price contracts. But when you talk to the chemical guys, they want to, forgive me, but screw the E&Cs if they can. So how do you approach what could be a pretty tight market over the next couple of years to avoid and to get good profitability on these projects?

Philip K. Asherman

I think our approach to that, Andy, is first of all, understand that the new -- there is a new norm, we believe, in labor productivity in the marketplace that we're going to have to address. There hasn't been as much activity, particularly on large projects, and those are going to have to be certainly well thought through before we get into a lot -- many of these jobs. And there's always certain risk premiums associated with that. So that does -- will reflect in the pricing from the market, from the industry. Having said that, our approach has always been, as far as risk on any large projects, is to control as much of the critical paths and certainly, the critical parts of the project that we can, direct labor included. And if you looked at what we structured today, going from technology to engineering, on to procurement, pipe fabrication, any steel plate structures that we may have on the job, we're doing a fairly complete view of every project that we address. I think combined with, I think, the opportunity of converting more technology awards for petrochemical into EPC and other opportunities, I think, are far greater in that market perhaps than what we've seen historically in refineries. Clearly, you're right, though. I think the productivity issues and direct labor costs are going to be one of the key issues going forward in how we're pricing these projects. And we're certainly aware of that. But we also believe that you don't necessarily mitigate that risk by subcontracting. We believe that our ability to self-perform on the majority of that work is really one of the keys to our success.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Martin Malloy from Johnson Rice.

Martin W. Malloy - Johnson Rice & Company, L.L.C., Research Division

I was wondering just on Lummus Technology and what you were just speaking about, how it -- some of the awards there might translate into EPC down the road here. And you spoke in your prepared comments about developing organically some new technologies for on-purpose propylene and butadiene. How does that influence -- when you sell those technology designs internally, influence the selection of you or someone else's EPC contract turn? Maybe if you could talk a little bit about the competitive landscape there for some of those technologies.

Philip K. Asherman

Yes. I'll let Dan talk to the technology-specific, just -- but again, how we've always approached our technology business from the time we acquired it is to take a little bit different approach than others who may choose to embed technology opportunities within their EPC offering. We first look at technology as a discrete opportunity and service our clients like that. In most cases, we certainly have the opportunity then to see if it makes sense, that we convert to EPC. But that's a decision that we make once we understand the project better. It's not an assumption we make going into a project. But as far as the technology market, I'll let Dan speak to that.

Daniel M. McCarthy

I think that in terms of technology, when we talk about ethylene projects, we feel we've invested a lot of time and effort into improving the flow sheet, reducing the piece count and lowering the investment, especially in that area of these ethane crackers. So this gives us what we hope is a particularly strong advantage there. In the area of on-purpose propylene or butadiene, we also feel that we have more advantage through the technology solutions that we have prepared and, in some cases, have unique solutions that other companies don't have. It's not that they couldn't make propylene, but they just couldn't make it the way we make it, and we feel that's better. And as we approach the market, as Phil mentioned, we always are looking to try to create value for the customer. And in early phases, especially in North America, we can help in environmental permitting, in planning and scoping our projects. And then because we have years and years of background in these technologies and we know how they have to go together in the construction side, I think that we can have a very convincing story, going back to the previous question of what needs to be done to execute the project and to do it efficiently on time, recognizing the other constraints of labor. So it's a -- one of our old guys once called it the short [ph] of a salami approach. You take a slice of salami at a time, and that's what we do. And it's been very effective in the U.S.

Philip K. Asherman

Speaking of that salami, I love them guys from New Jersey management team. But, Marty, I think, too, just getting commercially as you were referring to, it does give us a competitive advantage. It allows us to get more comfortable with some of the guarantees that owners typically require in these contracts, and so we can certainly address that commercially more effectively too. But it gives us an opportunity to really evaluate the project before we sign up for an EPC.

Martin W. Malloy - Johnson Rice & Company, L.L.C., Research Division

Okay. And then my second question, since your guidance call in late December, have you grown any more confident in being able to book one of these large LNG projects this year?

Philip K. Asherman

I'll let Lasse speak to that. I think, certainly, timing has always been the challenge, but we're actively engaged in every project that we've talked about in terms of the FEED work. But Lasse, why don't you talk about a couple of them?

Lasse Petterson

Yes. I think the 2 closest is Yamal in Russia, where the client has got bids for the engineering and procurement phase and then invited us to come and negotiate an EPC target price contract. And the client is confident that he'll make this selection some time in second quarter this year. And then on Browse, Woodside has received bids for the Browse development, and they are saying they will make a selection either late second quarter this year or beginning of third quarter.

Philip K. Asherman

Freeport.

Lasse Petterson

On Freeport, we're executing a FEED currently. That project will probably be awarded either late fourth quarter this year or maybe early next year. That is kind of the timing now on those 3 projects.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Steven Fisher from UBS.

Steven Fisher - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Wonder if I could just ask you to clarify that last point on Yamal. Specifically, the extent of competition there. I thought there was maybe 2 or 3 bidders on that project. Can you just clarify what you're looking at there?

Lasse Petterson

Yes. As we understand it, the client has gone out in competitive bidding. And I think there was originally 3 bidders. We believe the competition is probably down to 2. And more than that, we do not really know about the other competitors.

Steven Fisher - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Okay, that's helpful. And then I think on the last call, you had expressed confidence in hitting the low end of your bookings guidance if none of those LNG projects come through. Has anything changed in that perspective?

Philip K. Asherman

No, and we've talked about this, that we typically forecast our new awards on a factory basis and the probabilities that we discussed. Certainly, we -- some of that new award forecast includes some LNG major award this year. We fully expect that to happen. If that doesn't happen, certainly if we have confidence that we'll still be able to make -- certainly in the middle of our range of our guidance.

Steven Fisher - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Okay. And then just a follow-up to that is the $800 million of smaller-type projects in the quarter. If I heard that correctly, it's a pretty nice step up. Is there anything that you can point to in the quarter that would explain that via geographically or end market? And then, I guess, what are the expectations that you have for that type of work in 2013?

Philip K. Asherman

The projects represent the typical mix from engineering to small tanks and certainly, technology. Probably, the technology is the -- is probably the one component which made it incrementally higher than what we've seen in previous quarters. And again, those quarters and those run rates have run from about $500 million to $700 million, I think, totally, and then to roughly around $2.5 billion -- $2 billion to $2.5 billion of new awards every year. We expect that to certainly continue. Again, we may have some incremental adjustments on that, but that's a pretty good run rate to go forward for 2013, we'd say. And a lot of that too, let me just say, is we've had some great success on expanding our offshore business. Again, those are primarily engineering and procurement contracts, which may, again, in value -- certainly, many of the -- those have been over $100 million. That's been a great development for us in terms of our market development. So offshore is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our business as well.

Lasse Petterson

LNG.

Philip K. Asherman

And floating LNG. Thank you.

Ronald A. Ballschmiede

And I think in the United States, the steel structure market continues to improve. Certainly, a lot of this oil [indiscernible].

Philip K. Asherman

So a lot of things.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Cook from Credit Suisse.

Jamie L. Cook - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Two questions. One, just to follow-up on Andy's question on some of the labor issues that you're talking -- that people have been talking about since early in the year. Some of your peers have come out and said it was a result to that, they're seeing the markets in the U.S. move more towards cost-plus. Are you seeing that as well? And when you think about your approach to the U.S. market with Shaw Group, would you rather go to a cost-plus model? Or do you think, given some of the competitive advantage you have with fabrication and pipe bending and all that stuff, that you could get a higher win rate doing fixed-price? And I guess my second question is, Phil, just -- would you, on the labor side -- I mean, you have more prospects than most with Yamal, Gorgon, Freeport, Shaw's new projects. I mean, at what point do we get concerned that capacity becomes an issue for you because there's a lot of other big jobs out there on the GTL side, et cetera. So I just want to get a sense of it. At what point labor becomes constrained for you with the companies on a combined basis?

Philip K. Asherman

Right. Thank you, Jamie. Well, as far as the contract type, it really depends on the size. I mean, many of our -- let's say, call them mid-sized projects that we've seen, both in the petrochemical side and other types of projects in the U.S., have been fixed-price. And we performed very well. We haven't necessarily seen any real pressure on labor issues, per se. But certainly, as we go forward, our preferred model on the very large jobs is more of what we've always called the hybrid projects. I think the very large projects you're going to see strictly on a bid -- price bid basis, and perhaps more development-type projects through the preliminary engineering. And you'll probably see on the very large projects more contractors involved in verticals because most of these projects lend themselves to a very good vertical scopes. So I think you're going to see all of the above. I don't think it's going to be an all-or-the-other type situation. As that affects labor, when we talked about the acquisition, we certainly talked about scale and resource capacity and numbers in the next 5 years for 200,000-plus people you're going to need in this industry to do some of this work that's projected in the U.S. As that affects other opportunities, certainty, we draw from a global labor pool in all of the areas that we work in. Certainly, Australia lends itself to many of those labor pools, wouldn't necessitate necessarily diluting our project management staff at all. Much of our expatriate staff is already working overseas. So we think that's well -- we've got a good view on that. And if you look just on pure curves of projects, about the time many of these larger jobs in the U.S. -- this is theoretical -- are ramping up, you're going to see some of these large nuclear jobs start to go down. So we look at those curves as well. And so I don't know that -- it depends on the phasing of the job. It's unlikely that these jobs are all going to happen at once. But we're -- as we project these jobs not only financially, we're certainly looking at any kind of resource capacity constraints. But I would tell you, we're firm in our belief that, again, as I said to Andy, we think the best way to mitigate these risks is to be able to address all the critical components of the jobs theirselves. Even if you look just at pipe fabrication, as you mentioned, Jamie, that can be as much as 8% content in any job. So we don't have to necessarily -- we don't have to subcontract that anymore. So again, we'd take that out of the risk component. So we're very encouraged by what we see, and I think the industry is going to be geared up to handle these capital projects.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Will Gabrielski from Lazard.

Will Gabrielski - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Can you talk about if Browse or Yamal get awarded and you're selected, how quickly you would expect each one of those to start to ramp up into construction, I guess, on Browse specifically? Is FID, in sanctioning the project, really the main obstacle to moving it in construction? Or do you still see some metallurgical hurdles that needs to be cleared?

Philip K. Asherman

Lasse, do you want to answer that?

Lasse Petterson

Well, the final investment decision for these projects has not been made yet by the client. We have been going through FEED verification and bidding works. So once the final investment decision is made, we can then proceed into detail engineering and place a major equipment order that drives the critical path on that -- on these projects.

Philip K. Asherman

Will, just to clarify, we've had a team ongoing. There hasn't been any break in our consolidated team between -- and all the joint venture partners. So we've had a fairly sizable team on a paid basis, continuing to work with the owner to develop information and getting ready for as quick a ramp up as we possibly can.

Will Gabrielski - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Okay, that's helpful. And then in Australia specifically, there's been some news over the past few weeks, and UGL spoke about it today on some potential changes to the 4, 5, 7 visa program, have you guys anything heard about that? Or are you planning around that?

Lasse Petterson

Well, we see what is written in the paper as well. We haven't experienced any problems with mobilizing people to our projects in Australia, and these projects will require foreign workers in order to be completed. And as I said, we're working on mobilizing personnel to -- and Gorgon at this point in time. And we believe that the Gorgon project phases very well into some of these opportunities that we have in Australia.

Philip K. Asherman

Yes. Will, if you do any factoring regarding, let's say, the Woodside trains that were previously installed, keep in mind that tremendous amount of off -- or outside of the country kind-of-work we're going to be doing in terms of modernization and fabrication in virtually every large yard around Asia. That's a huge component of these projects that you haven't seen in previous trains. And I think that's going to be a real positive impact on mitigating labor or resource issues with these projects.

Will Gabrielski - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Okay. Then lastly, can you just comment -- you made a comment about Gorgon maybe staffing up at a lower rate than you had previously planned. I'm assuming that's like a productivity-positive thing. But do you guys -- is that right? And are you seeing any potential margin incentive from that?

Lasse Petterson

Well, the project Gorgon has been somewhat delayed due to the conditions out on the island. It's a Class A nature reserve and also some of the design issues on that project for that very reason. So when we planned the original project, we had the tanks and the MEI project ramping up quicker than what we currently see in our plants. But what all this does is to transfer work of a transferred work from 2012 and into '13 and '14 for us.

Philip K. Asherman

And we're on a reimbursable basis with a fee component on there, Will. So it's not a financial risk. It's just -- we're trying to help the project move as quickly as we can.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Tahira Afzal from KeyBanc.

Tahira Afzal - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

And really leading to that, I think as some analysts lose sight of how important your safety record is -- so could you talk a bit more about -- and I know you will be talking more about Shaw quantitatively soon. But would you talk a bit about -- really looking at Shaw from the same safety and execution aspects and really seeing qualitatively and strategically what you can bring from your safety record and execution record to Shaw to the extent you can?

Philip K. Asherman

Well, thank you for asking that. We looked at their safety record certainly, or execution methods and procedures, quite exhaustively when we performed the due diligence and very pleased with what we saw. Both Shaw and CB&I have similar backgrounds and legacies and how we look at work, whether it'd be fabrication or technology or engineering construction.

So the first, certainly, understanding of the talent they have within that organization and our ability to transfer our policies and procedures to Shaw, knowing that there's going to be a good understanding of why we're doing this. And so we've had a lot of good discussions over the past few months, transition teams working on making sure these policies and procedures are transferred, looking at where -- certainly, Shaw has brought many good execution philosophies and methodologies to us as well, and that's a process that will continue. So we don't expect that we're going to see any change, except continuing improvement over the total execution of the work going forward. And we expect to see the results from that as well.

Tahira Afzal - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

And my other question is in regards to the offshore side. It seems like you've made some very notable traction there. Could you talk about the opportunity set for CB&I over there? Do you see it being a fairly sizable business for you 2, 3 years down the road? Could it be as notable as some of your other larger businesses?

Philip K. Asherman

Lasse?

Lasse Petterson

Well, we've been quite successful over the last couple of years in securing a good share of the projects that has been awarded both in the U.K. sector and also in the Norwegian sector out the North Sea. It has been our ambition to leverage that position into also performing EPC projects together with partners on these projects. And that goes for the floating LNG opportunities as well. So there's good opportunity there to leverage into a larger revenue stream for CB&I going forward.

Philip K. Asherman

I think we'll be prepared on our Investor Day to talk a little more detail around that and what we truly see in terms of the overall sizing of what we think of the market now. But we've seen tremendous gains going from strictly an engineering contractor and services company where we're providing more and more scope and more and more places around the world.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of John Rogers from D.A. Davidson.

John B. Rogers - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division

A couple of things. First of all, just in terms of pricing in the domestic market, in the past, I've always heard that opportunities outside the U.S. often provided better margins. And as this market ramps up -- I mean, do we see a -- is there a change in the margin profile that we should think about? I know, Ron, you gave us some margin guidance, but you always seem to be at the high end of those.

Philip K. Asherman

Well, as Ron -- I think Ron will tell you, we think those margins, in terms of excellent [ph] margins and opportunity there -- probably, it's moving that bandwidth. And certainly, it's our challenge to certainly perform within those bandwidth or, in many cases, exceed them when we can. We don't have any indication that there's any kind of incremental change in the [indiscernible] markets -- margins of this business. There's plenty of competition. Certainly, in the U.S. market, we're going to see going forward probably more competition in the U.S. market than perhaps what we've seen in some of the international businesses. So I don't necessarily would make that assumption. And I, quite honestly, don't -- I probably don't agree that there was just a natural premium amount available for international work. But -- so I think when we look at these margins and these bandwidths of opportunities, it's pretty much a global bandwidth we're seeing. I wouldn't go too much out of that as far as modeling going forward.

John B. Rogers - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division

Okay. I appreciate that. And then -- so you've got -- you're going to be busy with Shaw, but is there an opportunity to do more fabrication and construction for offshore work?

Philip K. Asherman

Well, sure. I mean, as you're probably going to see, and we're going to talk about this probably going forward into the next quarter, is that's going to require partners, and you're going to see some interesting partners. We're going to have, in terms of overall fabrication, top-side design and application of technologies. So our ability to work with and collaborate with these global partners are going to be important. But it won't be all of us, as Lasse indicated. We're going to have many partners in this market.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of George O'Leary from Tudor, Pickering, Holt.

George O'Leary - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc., Research Division

I guess first question, since most of mine have been ticked through, would be on the refining markets. And just kind of -- what opportunities -- it feels like we're in the beginning innings of some potential big refining CapEx spend. You saw Valero announce a topper project. But what opportunities do you guys see in pop up other than that end market?

Philip K. Asherman

Dan?

Daniel M. McCarthy

I think that if you're focusing in -- on the U.S., for instance, the opportunities are probably more spec-driven than anything else, and some adjustments, possibly to refining configurations associated with different blends of crudes being processed, especially the shale crudes. So we see more opportunity internationally than in the U.S. But nevertheless, all the markets are important to us.

George O'Leary - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc., Research Division

Okay, that's very helpful. And then a second opportunity would be on -- if you could kind of help me with size of the market opportunity of the ethane derivatives market? And then is -- the labor that you guys have acquired in Shaw, is that -- it's U.S.-centric. There's going to be a big U.S. build out. Is that labor capable or transferable to the pet chem end market?

Philip K. Asherman

Let me answer the labor question first then turn it over to Dan for the ethane question that you had. Yes. Certainly, the labor is fairly fungible across those business lines. And the number of -- the amount of direct labor that Shaw brings to the table, not only in construction but certainly fabrication, is going to be very helpful in addressing that market. I think the other aspect to labor that you need to understand, too, and that we certainly look at, is the double-breasting aspects of the direct labor, both union and non-union. And both CB&I and Shaw have a good track record of being able to perform in virtually any labor posture in the United States. That, of course, is going to be very, very helpful when we look at these projects. Dan?

Daniel M. McCarthy

Yes. And when we talk about downstream of ethylene plants, especially ethane crackers, most of this is going to be converted into a polyethylene or ethylene glycol. And these are areas where we don't participate very much in terms of technology is an opportunity for our EPC organizations, of course, to do projects. And in terms -- but your question was what is the magnitude of the investment? I would say, in each ethylene plant -- and I'm just giving rough numbers here, each ethylene plant would have maybe half the investment in downstream facilities. This is probably a reasonable number to use.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Rob Norfleet from BB&T Capital Markets.

Robert F. Norfleet - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Phil, most of my questions have been answered. I just had one quick one. When you look at, during the quarter, project engineering and construction, the margins in that business were very strong at north of 5%. Was there a close out in the quarter that impacted margins? And I guess I'm -- when I'll look into 2013 and we had a lot of FEED work converting into EPC work with obviously a higher burn rate, you would think that obviously, the margin there might be a little lower, not higher. So how should we look at the fourth quarter margin from a run rate perspective?

Philip K. Asherman

Well, go ahead, Ron.

Ronald A. Ballschmiede

Yes, nothing out of the ordinary in there. We always have ups and downs, but nothing really moved the needle. I think the key part of that business is really a volume business. I mean, we have grown that revenue this year somewhere north of 30%. And that same leverage that's easy to see on our income statement, on S&A, the 20 or -- 10- or 30-basis-point improvement, flows down to the units. And they also have other fixed cost there that help in this equation, particularly with PEC with its engineering offices and associate overheads with things like that. So we're getting the -- we're getting some operating leverage there, and that's more than offsetting some of the greater percentage of cost-reimbursable work.

Philip K. Asherman

Yes. Rob, I think when you -- when we talk to you in March -- and hopefully you can come. But certainly, what we're going to be talking about going forward is the -- what we see is a pretty good balance of our backlog. I mean, historically, you're going to see the long, durable backlog contained in our engineering, construction and maintenance group, probably about 60% of that backlog. And you're going to see, those margins are going to probably produce probably, I don't know, 25%, 30% of the EBITDA. But then the important thing is you get a nice balance between the other 70% of our EBITDA opportunities coming from non-EPC and a fairly constant revenue stream. And I think that's the unique aspects of our business model and one we plan to take advantage of.

Robert F. Norfleet - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Great. That's helpful. And, Phil, my last question, I know it's been asked a few times in terms of the wage rate increases we've seen, especially in the Gulf Coast, but clearly, one of the rational reasons you laid out for your purchase of Shaw was to increase resource capacity, especially in North America. When you look at the petrochem opportunity, the LNG opportunity and just the overall gas opportunity -- I mean, how would you characterize, as this business ramps, the available capacity that we have in North America? I mean, is this going to become a pretty significant issue in terms of getting skilled labor and actually seeing people reaching their capacity limits sooner than later?

Philip K. Asherman

It is. That's a good summation, Rob. I think you're going to see that. That, that's going to be the primary. And we've seen it in other high-demand markets and other high-demand cycles before that certainly, the competition with that direct labor will drive absolute rates, absolute cost of labor. However, it's a productivity issue, I think, which is the real key here. Because again, I think we're going to see some new norms, and that's going to drive certainly the mix in the field on these very large jobs. It's going to be a challenge because it's not going to be the same estimating norm that we might have seen 10 years ago. But then when you have large projects competing for labor, you may see some increase, and that's something we usually certainly can see as far as normal escalations. But I would say, the overall productivity and getting the trained workforce [ph] , that would take, if you look at just how craft workers come through the system, you're talking about 2 or 3 years probably before that really levels out to some good, predictable productivity that would have some cost benefits from these projects.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Robert Connors from Stifel, Nicolaus.

Robert V. Connors - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Just one -- when you look on your 2013 man-hour execution schedule, just sort of wondering what sort of year-over-year growth rates we could have versus the $71 million you did this past year.

Philip K. Asherman

Well, yes. I don't -- I can't tell you exactly. When you look at that, we haven't had huge swings in overall man hours expended. I mean, this year was 71. Last year, I believe, was 67. It's really a function of how quickly a lot of these major projects will ramp up. And although we're aware of that, certainly, from our safety performance and other metrics, man hours is not necessarily the metric that we compare to. But it's -- certainly, we have seen some growth, but we've also seen some very successful years financially that didn't have necessarily the man hours. So we're not necessarily man-hour driven in terms of how we look at our business. But yes, we did see substantial growth. As our revenues grow this year, and certainly, when we look at the combined companies, there are going to be significant man hours associated with our business and more and more of a component of direct hours as you look at the fabrication and project sites.

Robert V. Connors - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. And then within Lummus Tech, do you see any possibility in the 2013 of margin decline if you exclude the equity income, but obviously offset by higher revenues as the heat exchanger work is an increased portion of the mix?

Daniel M. McCarthy

Yes. So I think that as heat exchanger work comes in, maybe revenues will go up. I don't see that income from operations will go down.

Philip K. Asherman

We've always seen and we've talked about, there is some diluted factor in terms of the heater transfer, which have the characteristics more of an EPC model, but that's not because we're not making more money. We're making more money, but as far as the percentage is, you do see some incremental effect on that. And so getting more heat transfer work is a good thing in absolute terms, but you do see a little variation in the margin percentage.

Daniel M. McCarthy

Right.

Robert V. Connors - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. And if I could just squeeze in one more, I don't know if you'll answer it now or at the end of March, but -- not really asking for any quantitative figures but just in general, what is your outlook on the future government solutions segment and particularly the MOX contract that you're acquiring from Shaw?

Philip K. Asherman

Well, of that business, certainly, the MOX contract stands out as probably a huge opportunity, provided it gets approved by Congress and the administration to go forward. And we see that very positively. I mean, Shaw had -- did a tremendous job of capturing a good share of the government work around the United States and various federal, state and local, and certainly, the MOX work at Savannah River. So we're well-positioned. So we think it's a good business. Of course it is new to some of us, and we're going to have to evaluate it. But again, it's got a good run rate and good returns on it. So we're very positive on that business.

Operator

At this time, there are no further questions. I will now turn it back over to the presenters for any closing remarks.

Philip K. Asherman

Just a quick reminder, we'd like you all to please come to our Investor Day on March 28th. It will be an opportunity to meet the management from the combined companies and to look at our plans for each segment of our business. And with that, we thank you for your time and attention this afternoon.

Operator

Thank you. That concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

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Source: Chicago Bridge & Iron N.V. Management Discusses Q4 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

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