* Revenue at KBR also falls short of estimates
* Fluor hit by $265 mln charge after ruling on wind farm
* Fluor sticks with NuScale funding, may reduce stake
* Fluor shares down 1 percent in after-hours trading
By Braden Reddall
Feb 20 Engineering company Fluor Corp on Wednesday reported slower-than-expected revenue growth and a quarterly loss due to a $265 million charge for the Greater Gabbard wind project off the coast of Britain.
Shares of Fluor, the largest publicly traded U.S. engineering company, dropped another 1 percent in after-hours trading following a 3 percent slide to $64.34 in the regular session on the New York Stock Exchange.
Fluor said its fourth-quarter net loss was $4 million, or 3 cents per share, compared with a profit of $153 million, or 90 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 12 percent to $7 billion, short of the $7.2 billion that analysts had expected, according to the average on Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Smaller rival KBR Inc also posted lower-than-expected revenue on Wednesday as its profit declined due to previously disclosed charges for its minerals and U.S. construction units.
At Greater Gabbard, Fluor had a long-running dispute with project owner SSE Plc over welding quality, and Fluor disclosed an adverse arbitration ruling in that case in November. Before taxes, the charge had totaled $416 million.
Fluor's overall backlog of projects fell to $38.2 billion at the end of 2012 from $40.8 billion three months earlier and $43 billion in the previous quarter.
But U.S. transportation has been a bright spot. In the past three months, Fluor landed the contractor role for a Dallas road interchange, and a Fluor-lead team was chosen to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge north of Manhattan. Together, that will add $1.7 billion to the backlog in the first quarter, Fluor said.
The Irving, Texas-based company is sticking with its 2013 forecast for earnings of between $3.85 and $4.35 per share. The outlook has been tempered by the sluggish global economy and the deferral of spending by big mining companies, Fluor has said.
BHP Billiton represented 13 percent of its 2012 revenue, according to its annual report, followed by the U.S. government at 12 percent and its massive neighbor in Irving, Texas, Exxon Mobil Corp, at 11 percent.
Looking to the future, Fluor says it is holding steady with its backing for NuScale, an Oregon-based nuclear technology developer, which is costing it about 20 cents per share annually. The firm missed out on the first round of Department of Energy grants, which would have required a ramp-up in investment.
Without that government funding, Fluor would now continue to look to sell down some of its controlling stake in NuScale, while keeping its investment in the firm flat.
"We've got an ability to turn it down a little bit until we're a little bit further down the road and we feel comfortable with where the technology is," Fluor Chief Executive David Seaton said on a conference call late on Wednesday.
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