on November 6, 2014 in Montreal. SNC-Lavalin Group is cutting its quarterly dividend for shareholders by 80 per cent as the troubled construction and engineering company grapples with a $2.12 billion net loss in its second quarter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

New SNC-Lavalin CEO says plea deal unlikely despite Liberal election win

SNC-Lavalin shares shot up 14 per cent the day after an Oct. 21 Liberal election win

The head of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. says he is not expecting a plea deal on criminal charges against the engineering firm in the wake of the Liberal election victory.

“We kind of remain focused on defending ourselves through a court process,” said Ian Edwards, regarding an upcoming trial on bribery and corruption charges linked to SNC-Lavalin’s alleged dealings in Libya between 2001 and 2011.

“Obviously if there were opportunities for settling this in another way, we’d be open to that. But we don’t expect it,” he said on a conference call with investors Thursday.

SNC-Lavalin shares shot up 14 per cent the day after an Oct. 21 Liberal election win, which left the door open to a deferred prosecution agreement that would head off criminal prosecution.

Attorney General David Lametti has refused to shut down the possibility of such an agreement, which would drop the charges against the firm in exchange for SNC admitting responsibility for breaches and agreeing to conditions such as a fine and third-party oversight.

On Thursday shares rose nearly 21 per cent or $4.06 to close at $23.81 — their highest in more than three months — after SNC reported earnings that surpassed analyst expectations.

The partial sale of SNC’s stake in the Ontario Highway 407 toll road drove a massive year-over-year profit increase. About $2.6 billion of the firm’s $2.76 billion in net income last quarter — up from $120.7 million a year earlier — came from the after-tax gains of the 407 sale.

The engineering services segment played a role too. Its backlog rose nearly 10 per cent year over year to $11.42 billion in the third quarter as SNC signed seven new contracts worth roughly $500 million. Segment revenue jumped more than 11 per cent to $1.58 billion.

Edwards, who was appointed president and chief executive Thursday after serving in an interim role since June, sought to showcase the fruits of his vision for the company. The firm is pivoting away from big, fixed-price construction contracts — where the bidder shoulders any cost overruns — towards a more stable business model that revolves around engineering services.

ALSO READ: Trudeau election win boosts SNC-Lavalin shares amid hopes around criminal case

“It is still early days, but the decisions we made in July — to exit lump-sum turnkey construction contracting and reorganize the company to focus on our high-performing engineering services business — are demonstrating results, and I am encouraged by our progress,” Edwards said in a release.

SNC-Lavalin reduced its backlog of large, fixed-price contracts — which it aims to work off in the next two years — to $3.2 billion from $3.4 billion three months earlier. The bulk of them relate to light-rail projects in Canada, “which have traditionally…gone well for us,” Edwards said.

Some half-billion dollars’ worth of the lump-sum turnkey projects are for oil and gas, however, which do not have a history of turning a profit, he added.

Last October shares plunged after SNC-Lavalin revealed that federal prosecutors would not negotiate a deal, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pressuring then-attorney general Jody Wilson Raybould to reverse their stance.

The firm’s upcoming trial concerns charges of fraud under the Criminal Code and bribery under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

The Caisse, Quebec’s pension fund manager and SNC-Lavalin’s biggest shareholder at 19.9 per cent, said it backs Edwards’ appointment as CEO.

“Since taking the reins of the company a few months ago, he’s clearly put emphasis on execution challenges. That’s a good starting point for the work ahead,” the Caisse told The Canadian Press in an email.

Revenue for the three-month period ended Sept. 30 totalled $2.43 billion, down from $2.56 billion.

On an adjusted basis, which excluded the 407 sale, SNC said it earned $218.0 million or $1.24 per share in its third quarter, up from an adjusted profit of $168.4 million or 96 cents per share a year ago.

The results topped analyst expectations of adjusted income of $97.7 million or 26 cents per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Mary Lowther column: Growing out your own seeds

Some crops like tomatoes don’t cross pollinate well

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Buyers across the province will soon be able to pick up a… Continue reading

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

Most Read