UPDATE 2-Sterling Construction Q1 misses Street, sees weak 2010

* Q1 EPS $0.09 vs est $0.19

* Revenue $86.2 mln vs est $96.6 mln

* Sees 2010 profit below last year
(Adds conference call details)

May 10 (BestGrowthStock) – Civil construction firm Sterling
Construction Co Inc (STRL.O: ) posted a lower-than-expected
quarterly profit, hurt by weakness in its key Texas and Nevada
markets, and said it continued to expect a weak year. The
company said it expected 2010 profit to be “substantially
below” last year’s, due to reduced bidding opportunities,
intense competition and lower margins on new projects.

However, Sterling said it was hopeful about the extension
of the federal funding for highways to Dec. 31, which was
pegged at $1.55 billion for the rest of the fiscal.

“There will be more visibility to future spending flow, and
that this will add some normalcy to the marketplace,” a company
executive said on a conference call with analysts.

The highway bill authorizes long-term federal funding for
state highway projects. The law concerned expired in September
2009, but U.S. Congress has kept up the flow of money through
short-term extensions.

With plans to overhaul the $286 billion highway bill — one
of the richest and most popular legislative undertakings for
states — on hold, fewer states are putting out projects to
bid, which has led to intense competition and margin pressure.

Sterling’s gross margin for the quarter fell to 9.6 percent
from 12.5 percent a year earlier.

“The bidding climate and competition in our markets remain
challenging and we have worked off backlog without fully
replacing it,” Chief Operating Officer Joseph Harper said.

Q1 RESULTS

“The lower revenues in Texas and Nevada in the first
quarter of 2010 were due to our reduction of the number of
crews working as a result of the decrease in backlog and to
wetter weather than in the first quarter of 2009,” Harper said.

For the first quarter, the company reported a net income
of $1.6 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with $5.6
million, or 41 cents a share a year earlier. Revenue fell 9
percent to $86.2 million.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 19 cents a
share on revenue of $96.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters
I/B/E/S.

Shares of the company were trading up 3 percent at $16.46
in the afternoon session Monday on Nasdaq.

The Dow Jones Industrial average (.DJI: ) jumped more than 4
percent Monday as an agreement on a $1 trillion emergency
rescue package quelled fears that Greece’s debt crisis would
spread. The Nasdaq composite index also rose 4 percent.

Stock Market Today

(Reporting by Megha Mandavia in Bangalore; Editing by Ratul
Ray Chaudhuri and Don Sebastian)

UPDATE 2-Sterling Construction Q1 misses Street, sees weak 2010