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URS Corporation (NYSE:URS)

Q4 2013 Results Earnings Conference Call

March 03, 2014 05:00 PM ET

Executives

Thomas Hicks - Chief Financial Officer

Martin Koffel - Chairman and CEO

George Nash - President of Energy & Construction

Analysts

Andy Wittmann - Baird

Saagar Parikh - KeyBanc

Operator

Good afternoon. And welcome to the URS Corporation Earnings Conference Call for the 2013 Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year. To begin, I'll turn the call over to Mr. Thomas Hicks, Chief Financial Officer of URS. Mr. Hicks?

Thomas Hicks

Well, thank you, operator and good afternoon to everyone. Before we get started, let me remind you that today's call will contain forward-looking statements, including statements about our future revenue, business prospects, book of business, earnings and financial conditions, share repurchases, dividends, outstanding shares and other statements that are not historic facts. These statements represent our expectations as to future events, which we believe are based on reasonable assumptions.

However, numerous risks and uncertainties could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements, including those described in our SEC periodic reports, and we assume no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements.

And as a reminder, cash EPS; free cash flow and EBITDA are non-GAAP measures. Accordingly, a reconciliation of cash, EPS to GAAP EPS and EBITDA to net income is provided in the reconciliation schedule on our website, urs.com and in our earnings press release.

A webcast of this call is available on the Investor Relations portion of our website and will be archived in audio form on the website for a limited period.

And with that, I'll turn the call over to Martin Koffel, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Martin Koffel

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. In addition to Tom, the team with me here in San Francisco includes Randy Wotring, President of Federal Services; Gary Jandegian, President of Infrastructure & Environment; George Nash, President of Energy & Construction; Martin Tanzer, Executive Vice President of Marketing; Reed Brimhall, Chief Accounting Officer; and Sam Ramraj, VP of Investor Relations.

Our results for fiscal 2013 are in line with the preliminary figures we provided in February, except for earnings per share which is slightly above the preliminary range that we gave. There is of course additional detail in today’s press release and in the 10-K filing.

My remarks this afternoon will focus on our outlook for 2014 and later in the call Tom will discuss our 2013 results in a bit more detail.

Overall, we believe that we are well positioned across our key market sectors. For 2014 we expect revenue growth in our oil and gas, industrial, power and infrastructure sectors. At the same time, we expect federal revenues to decline due to the long planned wind down of our successful chemical demilitarization program.

And looking ahead, we are optimistic about our prospects in the oil and gas sector and believe we are building a strong franchise. And we have a stable base of work in Canada and in the U.S. increased capital investments in [chain] formations and liquefied natural gas projects are driving new opportunities for URS.

Additionally, with our expanded oil and gas platform, we are benefiting from the expansion of our Master Service Agreements with multi-national companies to provide environmental compliance and remediation services. On our last call we discussed the corrective actions we’ve taken to address project execution issues in our oil and gas business. These actions are all well in hand.

In the upstream market, we expect increasing natural gas prices will contribute to increasing demand for our drilling and rig moving services and fluid hauling activity also should remain robust throughout the year.

In the midstream market, in Canada, pipeline takeaway capacity is constrained and I am sure you’ve seen a lot in the press about that impart due to uncertainty about the approval of new pipelines. And these conditions are affecting the level of activity in the midstream market in Canada. That said, we expect the [fluid] work to start up very quickly when new pipelines including the Keystone XL receive government approval.

On the other hand in the United States in the midstream market we’re active in production services and projects in the Permian, the Bakken, the Marcellus, Utica, Piceance Basin and also in the Eagle Ford Region, the Gulf Coast and in Alaska. And in the downstream market, we continued to drive stable revenues from our maintenance and service business, which has steady margins and low capital requirements.

As you recall, URS has been positioned for the revival of the industrial sector and we said quite a bit about that in recent calls. And we are pleased that conditions continue to improve. Revenues increased modestly in both the third and fourth quarters of 2013 and we ended the year with a $1.3 billion backlog. That's a 44% increase from the beginning of 2013 and it provides us with a strong base of work for 2014.

We’re seeing an increase in spending by chemical companies for new production facilities and recently we won large EPC contracts for our fertilizer plant in Iowa and a biorefinery in Mississippi. And we expect to ramp up construction on these projects during the year. Its fast-growing market and we believe there will be more opportunities to support our [clients] as they consider future projects around the country.

The outlook for our mining business in the United States and Australia also remains favorable. For example, Rio Tinto is investing an additional $2 billion over the next four years to increase iron ore production in its Western Australia facilities. We're active on two major projects in the region and in the position to win additional work.

In the United States, we're providing EPC services for tailing dams and other site infrastructure at Freeport-McMoRan and Chevron’s mining facilities in the Southwest. Additionally, we have a strong and growing facilities management business. We recently extended relationships with DuPont and with Phillips 66 and several other long standing clients. And we also see project opportunities in the food and beverage, the automotive and industrial and manufacturing markets.

Now turning to the power sector, 2013 revenues decreased by 25% for the 2012 reflecting the market cyclicality, we’re also affected by the decision of one utility not to move forward with a major nuclear plant restoration project. However, we believe that a gradual recovery in this sector is underway. Our power sector backlog has increased 130 million, that's 11% since the end of the second quarter of 2013.

In the transmission and distribution market, utilities are accelerating modernization projects. We resume to began work on a number of multi-year team B contracts. Our UK clients are moving forward with the seismic upgrade and flood control projects to meet the NRC’s 2016 deadline to comply with post Fukushima’s safety requirements. And we’re already winning new work and executing current projects.

I think everyone will understand that there is little near-term activity in the United States that will lead to the award of additional projects for new nuclear power plants. But on the other hand, five nuclear power plants have recently been identified for fee commissioning and ultimately demolition.

URS and its partners have won recent awards for upfront planning and estimating services at two of these facilities. In addition, there is a steady market for nuclear plant upgrades to increase capacity and to extend the operating life of these facilities. We’re working on several of these assignments and we see additional opportunities in the future.

In the fossil fuel market, many utilities currently are considering whether to convert existing coal-fired plants to natural gas, to install air quality control systems or to build new facilities. And we have extensive experience in all three areas and really positioned us well to support our clients regardless of which way to go with those decisions. In fact, presently we’re working with We Energies as it converts one of its coal-fired plants to a gas-fired facility.

Our infrastructure business performed well in 2013 and we expect to continue to gain momentum through 2014. In the transit market states and municipalities are utilizing bond initiatives in federal grounds to expand local street car and light rail systems. They will begin work on new assignments in California, Florida and Hawaii. In addition we rewarded a $94 million amendment to our work on the east side access project. This project will extend service on Long Island Railroad, the largest committed railroad in the country to Grand Central terminal on Manhattan’s East side.

We’re also supporting several highway and bridge upgrade projects. Increasingly these large scale programs are using design build and public private partnerships or P3s as they are called that require the full service capabilities that URS can provide. And the state budget picture’s improving. This is very important that is an underpinning to infrastructure spending. 43 states are now projecting general fund spending to increase in fiscal 2014. And a number of states including Massachusetts, Texas and New Jersey all quite big spenders are using the additional funding to support new infrastructure programs.

And since 1950s federal highway funding has always underpinned transportation infrastructure to state level, initially of course it was the inter-state highway program and then infrastructure generally. Now, last week the President outlined a plan for the full year $302 billion federal transportation reauthorization, and that’s amazing for the people in the infrastructure business. The existing authorization which is called MAP-21 expires September 30, 2014. The proposed program is sufficient not only to fill the current funding gap in the Highway Trust fund, but also to increase surface transportation investment levels by nearly $90 billion over the next four years. If enacted by Congress federal spending on highways would increase by 22% annually, mass transit would increase by 70% and rail would increase more than 100%.

On the same day the President announced an additional $600 million in TIGER competitive grants that were recently funded in the Bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act which was actually signed by the President in January. It’s important to note that no further legislative action is required to release these grants.

And finally the fundamentals are underpinning our United Kingdom infrastructure business which we have been building for several years and remain very encouraging. There is renewed emphasis on infrastructure spending at all levels of government which has led to a robust level of new opportunities for us. And we’re particularly active in the transportation at rail and airport markets. Just by way of example we are supporting London CrossRail and they proposed Heathrow Airport runway expansion project.

And now to the Federal sector. As we noted on February 13th in our call, Federal sector revenues were for 2013, were impacted by the budgets (inaudible) made by sequestration and by the government shutdown. We also were affected by the planned wind down of our chemical demilitarization program. Under this program, URS has saved the government more than $3.8 billion due to our exceptional performance and that accelerated closure of Chem Demil sites and enabled us to earn large incentive fees over the past several years. As we have discussed, our contracts to destroy chemical weapons are expected to continue for the next five to seven years.

However, we expect that revenue and profits will decline as this long term program is wind down. Tom Hicks, will discuss our expectations for the Chem Demil program in 2014 and 2015 in his remarks. And like many federal contractors, we continue to face difficult market conditions this year as federal spending is further reduced and contracts awards are delayed.

And with that said, we are cautiously optimistic that with the exception of Chem Demil, we can maintain revenues this year and in certain important areas such as cyber security, counter terrorism and classified programs deliver modest growth. You recall that we have been building in those sectors over the last few years. We built a strong durable and profitable federal business as there is really good to the years and its well position to support the long term needs of our clients.

Over the years we have been quick to adapt Federal business to affect the government’s priorities and budgets. And during the next 12 months, The Department of Defense will conduct its quadrennial defense review and we are in the process of aligning our business to the new priorities expected from the DoD.

We are also extending our reach internationally by leveraging our global scale, our technical expertise and large scale project management capabilities with national government agencies outside the U.S. We see a number of opportunities to expand these services to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense to Native and to the United Nations.

And with that Tom Hicks will now discuss our financial results in more detail.

Thomas Hicks

Well, thanks Martin. I'll begin with our full year 2013 results. Our fourth quarter results were available in the press release we issued this afternoon. Fiscal 2013 revenues were $11 billion. Net income was $247 million. EPS was $3.31. Cash EPS was $4.26 and EBITDA was $765.2 million.

Interest expense for the year was $86 million. And our 2013 operating income margin was 5.4%. Our tax rate was 33.7% and our diluted weighted average shares outstanding were $74.7 million.

And for 2013 CapEx, excluding the equipment we purchased through capital leases was $81 million. We generated $614 million of cash flow from operations in 2013. And therefore operating cash flow, less CapEx or free cash flow was $533 million for the year, 75% higher than 2012.

A reconciliation of free cash flow to GAAP operating cash flows provided in the reconciliation schedule on our website urs.com.

Our strong cash flow enables us to return significant value to our stockholders. In total, we returned approximately $155 million to stockholders in 2013, $62 million in dividends, plus $93 million of share repurchases. And as we announced in February, we are accelerating our plan to return a total of at least $500 million to stockholders, through stock repurchases and dividends by the end of 2015.

We know expect to accelerate the stock repurchase portion of the plan and spend approximately $350 million during 2014 for share repurchases. Our repurchase program is already underway and continuing, in fact as of Friday February 28th, we had repurchased 2.8 million shares of URS common stock for a total amount of approximately $130 million in 2014. In addition we will be increasing our next regular quarterly dividend to $0.22 per share and this dividend would be payable on April 11th, to stockholders of record on March 21.

We report separate financial information on our four business segments. These results are included in a press release we issued today. Our press release also contains a detailed description of our book of business including backlog auctioneers and indifferent delivery contracts or IDCs. We ended 2013 with a book of business of $22.8 billion, compared to $23.3 billion at the end of the third quarter and $24.9 billion at the end of 2012.

Backlog was $11.3 billion at the end of the year, compared to $11.6 billion at the end of third quarter and $13.3 billion at the end of 2012. The value auctioneers at the end of 2013 was $4 billion compared to $3.9 billion at the end of the third quarter and $5 billion at the end of 2012.

And IDCs were $7.5 billion compared to $7.7 billion at the end of the third quarter and $6.7 billion at the end of 2012. And this is representative of the continuing shift towards the use of IDCs by both private and public sector clients.

On our call last month we provided specific detail on the expected contribution of our chemical weapons demilitarization program and the large incentive and award fees received for our exceptional execution. The program generated $648 million in revenues and $213 million in operating income in 2013.

After 2014, we continue to expect the program to contribute between 280 and $280 million and $290 million in revenue and between $80 million and $90 million in operating income. In 2015, we expect the program to contribute between $150 million and $160 million in revenues, and between $25 million and $35 million in operating income.

With that I’ll turn the call back to Martin.

Martin Koffel

Before I turn to our 2014 guidance, I should like to review the organizational changes that we made to gain efficiencies and to improve our competitive position. As we announced in February, we more closely aligned the Oil & Gas division with the Energy & Construction division. Now, both divisions are construction intensive; and aligning them more closely will promote the standardization of work practices, enhance the focus on project execution, and increase collaboration on new business pursuits, it will also underpin the sharing of project resources particularly the Energy & Construction division’s large project management skills. This will enable the company to pursue larger and more technically complex projects in the oil and gas sector.

In addition, we’re consolidating our national government businesses. We’re shifting our global management and operation services group from the Energy & Construction division to the Federal Services division. The group being shifted is the one that executes on environmental management contracts with the Department of Energy in United States and with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the United Kingdom.

So turning now to our guidance for 2014, we continue to expect consolidated revenues to be between $10.8 billion and $11.2 billion; fully diluted earnings per share to be between $3.20 and $3.50; fully diluted cash earnings per share to be between $4.13 and $4.43; and cash flow from operations to be between $725 million and $775 million. As a consequence of the stock buyback program which is underway, we expect that our fully diluted weighted average shares outstanding for 2014 will be approximately 68 million.

And to conclude my prepared remarks, I should like to turn to the leadership of URS. After more than 25 years as the company’s CEO, I have a personal desire to handover the responsibilities as soon as the succession process has been completed. For many years, the URS Board has been focused on management development and succession planning and not only for the CEO’s position but also for other senior executive positions. With respect to my own succession, the focus is intensified and the Board has appointed a committee of Independent Directors who have been designated as the CEO Succession Committee. The committee with the support of the full Board is completely engaged in identifying the next CEO; we’ll keep you informed as this process progresses.

And let me emphasize that we continue to enjoy strong positions in all our markets and we have excellent long-term prospects. And we expect to continue to generate substantial free cash flow this year and we remain focused on returning value to stockholders. And with we’ll open the call up to your questions. Operator?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Andy Wittmann with Baird.

Andy Wittmann - Baird

I think one of the things that came out of last the conference call is just the reliance on the Chem Demil contract and I think all everybody knew was big, may be caught some investors little off guard, I think maybe it’s time to step back and kind of may be Tom if you could give us some insight into other individually large contracts, Hanford, Sellafield coming to mind, maybe there are others. Can you may be, I’m catching you off guard a little bit, but give us some sense about how important those are so maybe we can be just aware of these and some of these surprises don’t catch us next time?

Thomas Hicks

Yes Andy, good afternoon by the way. I think one misconception about chemical demilitarization is that it’s one contract; it is a series of contracts. And we have chosen to report it as a program because we think that makes sense and gives people a sense of just how important that whole program is.

If you look across our business, you can find other programs, I can think of work we do to republish old nuclear plants to upgrade them and upgrade them. If you look at that as a program, you would include probably three or four new contracts in any given 12 month or 24 month period. And you can go to the company and do that in many other areas, if you do it on a programmatic basis. On a contract basis, we don’t have any individual contracts. You’ve touched on a couple of rather large ones, but we don’t have any individual contracts that are material by themselves, otherwise you hear about them discussed at this call or in our filings.

Andy Wittmann - Baird

Yes, I guess the government contracts are probably the ones that kick out the most, we obviously I think from the investor standpoint, we kind think of chemical demilitarization as one program, it’s kind of one funding source maybe, is there any way to get our arms around what Hanford, Sellafield, may be some of the other federal contracts or programs are in terms of what they comprise of probably earnings going forward? Do those larger contracts -- do those two maybe comprise 10%, 15% of the earnings, just some sort of ballpark might be helpful?

Thomas Hicks

You know what, probably -- and it is probably something to be covered at later date. I mean at this point, I don’t think I’d go through and list, if I started listing any particular contract, we’d get to a list of 8 or 10 or 15 pretty quickly, before you get to a material number. Because as I said none of those individuals contracts, I mean you could look at DOE business in general, which is a big program if you will, that’s a big number; you could look at something like the nuclear upgrade and upgrading business, I told you about that’s a big number; and you can go through and look at stuff that we do in the UK as a family of contracts. We have multiple contracts there, same thing. But we’ll take your comment under advisement and maybe there is way we can describe it in the future.

Andy Wittmann - Baird

Okay, great. I’ll jump back in the queue for later. Thanks.

Operator

The next question comes from Tahira Afzal with KeyBanc.

Saagar Parikh - KeyBanc

This is actually Saagar on for Tahira. Good afternoon.

Thomas Hicks

Hi Saagar.

Saagar Parikh - KeyBanc

Hi. First question on the Chem Demil guidance that you just gave for 2015; I think the midpoint suggests revenue around $155 million and operating income around $30 million. Looking back the comments from the last few weeks ago on the guidance call, it seems like the operating income stepped down from ‘14 to ‘15, a little bit greater than maybe what people were thinking. Is there anything that occurred over the last few weeks to suggest why the downtick or it’s just you guys are being looking more into it?

Thomas Hicks

I think if you go back to the transcript of the previous call and the release, I think we were right in the same range; we just got a little more specific. I don’t think it’s -- there has been no change in our outlook on the program.

Saagar Parikh - KeyBanc

Okay. Thank you. And then looking at your margins and the way you report a line of segment basis, just looking and just trying to get color on where we could expect them to go, looking at your infrastructure environment segment, those margins have decreased over the last three or four years, but then your federal services have picked up on the incentive fees but then your energy and construction also picked up. Can you give us some color on why those shifts have happen and what you guys seek going forward in those segments?

Thomas Hicks

Yes, there is a different story for each segment; I’ll start with the infrastructure segment. We started to do, our international business there has grown faster than our domestic business, so has become a bigger factor and our margins internationally a little bit lower than what they are domestically. They also started to do and have done more construction activity in the infrastructure segment, so that also obviously with pass-throughs and construction activity a lower margin, so that’s an impact there.

I’d say in the other areas, in federal services obviously the biggest impact has been the continued performance under the chemical demilitarization program. We think that that business over the long term is a 5% to 7% business and right now is running much than that because of the impact of chemical demilitarization. E&C business has embedded in it, at least historically embedded in it some significant incentive fees related to programs. We have a contracting methodology where we share profits above a target and we share losses below a target, or the other way around but with clients there. And some of those programs, we were successful in completing over the last few years and generated margins that were quite favorable. So that’s one of the impacts there.

And the other thing I would tell you is just as overarching comment, the amount of work we do that’s accounted for in a way in which only the profit of the program shows up as opposed to the full revenue and cost associated with the program and we get several flavors of that in our performance reporting and that can vary pretty dramatically and obviously if you’re only reporting profit and no revenue then it’s going to cause your margins to look much higher than they would have been otherwise. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but those are some of the factors and we talk about them extensively in the K and in our previous filings.

Saagar Parikh - KeyBanc

And a quick follow-up to that, I know in the past you guys have given your ranges that you kind of expect those segments to fall into. Can you just give us and update on that?

Thomas Hicks

Yes. I’ll just review IE which is primarily our infrastructure business is a 6% to 8% operating margin business traditionally, fed services is 5% to 7% as I mentioned earlier and EC and oil and gas are 4% to 6% because of the construction content and the pass-through they have.

Saagar Parikh - KeyBanc

Perfect. Thank you very much.

Martin Koffel

You’re welcome.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jamie Cook with Credit Suisse.

Unidentified Analyst

Jeff speaking on behalf of Jamie.

Martin Koffel

Hi. How are you?

Unidentified Analyst

I am good. How are you?

Martin Koffel

Good.

Unidentified Analyst

And I just had a question on turning to oil and gas on the 5 or 6 projects, how much you experienced issue this quarter? And I was hoping if you sort of quantify the revenue associated with these projects. And you’ve also said on the call huge scale of that, the sort of big question mark is whether you can return to 4 to 6 margins in oil and gas? And I want to know is that 4% to 6% assumed in the guidance? And if so, do you expect to get there basically on improved execution in the projects winding down or is there anything else we should consider?

Martin Koffel

Let me answer the last part first. We think the 4% to 6% is an achievable margin for that business and obviously that’s what we have included in our planning as we go forward for ‘14 and beyond. As far as the individual projects that we had problems with, most of those are either complete or very close to being completed. And I don’t think we’ve shared the revenue levels and this probably doesn’t make sense since these projects are right at their end anyway. But we’re focused heavily on that and want to make sure that we perform as well as possible in that segment.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay great. Thank you. And I guess just another question about the type of projects you guys are tracking. And you guys have said that you have been doing a lot of short-term book-to-burn work that doesn’t always show up in backlog. So for 2014 do you expect projects to be mostly as just sort of small and mid-sized? And are there any EPC type opportunities that are bit larger than you are tracking?

Martin Koffel

In the oil and gas business?

Unidentified Analyst

Yes.

Martin Koffel

Look for George Nash on.

George Nash

Good afternoon. We have a whole portfolio of projects, so when you ask if they are all small and short book-to-bill and IDC type projects, the majority of them are, but with the purchase of the franchise and the bundle of the services that we have both in the E&C division and the oil and gas division along with our engineering content, we are assuming larger programs we can bundle those services.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. Thanks a lot.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from Andrew Kaplowitz with Barclays.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible) standing in for Andy Kaplowitz. Good afternoon.

Martin Koffel

Hi, how are you?

Unidentified Analyst

Good. So you talked earlier about aligning your organizational structure to improve your competitive position, so my question for you is, how does this change in leadership within oil and gas affect your ability to win large downstream oil and gas projects? So we know that you had a strong positioning on the upstream side, but how should we think about growth on the downstream side? And do the recent changes impact or affect the timeline for your building or your presence in the U.S.?

George Nash

This is George again, two questions; I will take the second one first. By bringing the -- as you know the oil and gas division had a dominant position in the Canadian market and are less dominant in the U.S. so we’ve coupled the capability in the U.S. both within our EC division and we have actually changed few of the other pieces as well. And with the whole focus would be to expand the lower 48 marketplace, so that’s a very strong strategic focus for us in 2014. And by combining those divisions together we have that capability all under one division or able to deploy that to the marketplace.

And the first part of your question again, could you repeat that?

Unidentified Analyst

We’ve known that you’ve had a lot of work on the upstream side; do you think you could affect your ability to win large downstream oil and gas projects?

George Nash

We think it will enhance that. And by bringing these divisions together in the upstream we still consider that to be a strong market position for us and obviously some of the natural gas pricing has affected that a little bit, because as we get as much drilling in that area however relative to the upstream, we don’t think we still believe that that’s a good business for us and we will continue to win work.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, great. And then my second question is, though we’ve seen some meaningful improvement recently in infrastructure related activity and we have also seen some articles in the press suggesting bipartisan support for the transportation bill and you had pointed out that the President outlined a plan for the transportation reauthorization. And my question is how much should we worry about the government wrangling in the challenges to getting a longer term transportation bill passed, after given we were only able to get a two-year bill passed last time, after a number of only short term evolutions?

Martin Koffel

Well, first of all the target grounds I mentioned are lower and that findings are available. As to the larger transportation bill that the President has outlined it does require congressional action. And there is always some parts have been [shipped] and regional interest in that. On the other hand, I think there is broad realization that we have to replace the aging and it's now worn out infrastructure.

So, I can't really bet on the political outcome. There will be wrangling over it. And I have -- it is a past of any indication, we'll get an allocation out of this; where that's exactly, what the President's outlined, I very much hope it is. I think that's really an enlightened outline, because the important thing I mentioned is that we’d not only closed the gap in the highway bill but to go beyond that. So, we'll just have to see what happens in Congress and the way I think score that is to see what else is going on in congress.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you for taking my questions.

Operator

That concludes the Q&A session. I'd now like to turn the call back over to Mr. Martin Koffel for closing remarks.

Martin Koffel

Well, thank you for joining us today. And we look forward to discussing our first quarter results with you in May. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you for participating in today's conference. You may now disconnect.

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