Willbros: Maintain Financial Flexibility

The following excerpt is from the company's SEC filing.

Maintaining the financial flexibility to meet the material, equipment and personnel needs to support our project commitments, as well as the ability to pursue our expansion and diversification objectives, is critical to our performance and growth.

Our core expertise and service offerings allow us to provide our customers with a single source EPC solution which creates greater efficiencies and benefits both our customers and our company. We believe our Professional Services segment’s EPC services, which is focused on small to mid-sized capital projects, is relatively unique in our respective markets, providing us with a competitive advantage in providing these services. In performing integrated EPC contracts, we often perform front-end engineering and design services while establishing ourselves as overall project managers from the earliest stages of project inception and are, therefore, able to improve the efficiency of the design, permitting, procurement and construction sequence for a project in connection with making engineering decisions. Our customers benefit from a more seamless execution; while for us, these contracts often yield more consistent profit margins on the engineering and construction components of the contract compared to stand-alone contracts for similar services. Additionally, this contract structure allows us to deploy our resources more efficiently and capture the engineering, procurement and construction components of these projects.

We operate in a highly competitive environment. We compete against companies that have financial and other resources substantially in excess of those available to us. In certain markets, we compete against national and regional firms against which we may not be price competitive. We have different competitors in different markets, including those listed below.

Most of our revenue is derived from engineering, construction and EPC contracts. The majority of our contracts fall into the following basic categories:

• time and materials contracts where personnel and equipment are provided under an agreed-upon schedule of daily rates with other direct costs being reimbursable; and

Changes in scope-of-work are subject to change orders to be agreed upon by both parties. Change orders not agreed to in either scope or price result in claims to be resolved in a dispute resolution process. These change orders and claims can affect our contract revenue either positively or negatively.

We usually obtain contracts through either competitive bidding or negotiations with long-standing clients. We are typically invited to bid on projects undertaken by our clients who maintain approved bidder lists. Bidders are pre-qualified on the basis of their prior performance for such clients, as well as their experience, reputation for quality, safety record, financial strength and bonding capacity.

In evaluating bid opportunities, we consider such factors as the client and their geographic location, the difficulty of the work, current and projected workload, the likelihood of additional work, the project’s cost and profitability estimates, and our competitive advantage relative to other likely bidders. The bid estimate forms the basis of a project budget against which performance is tracked through a project control system, enabling management to monitor projects effectively.

All U.S. government contracts and many of our other contracts provide for termination of the contract for the convenience of the client. In addition, some contracts are subject to certain completion schedule requirements that require us to pay liquidated damages in the event schedules are not met as the result of circumstances within our control.

We act as the primary contractor on a majority of the construction projects we undertake. In our capacity as the primary contractor and when acting as a subcontractor, we perform most of the work on our projects with our own resources and typically subcontract only such specialized activities as hazardous waste removal, horizontal directional drills, non-destructive inspection, catering and security. In the construction industry, the prime contractor is normally responsible for the performance of the entire contract, including subcontract work. Thus, when acting as the primary contractor, we are subject to the risk associated with the failure of one or more subcontractors to perform as anticipated.

Under a fixed-price contract, we agree on the price that we will receive for the entire project, based upon specific assumptions and project criteria. If our estimates of our own costs to complete the project are below the actual costs that we may incur, our margins will decrease, possibly resulting in a loss. The revenue, cost and gross profit realized on a fixed-price contract will often vary from the estimated amounts because of unforeseen conditions or changes in job conditions and variations in labor and equipment productivity over the term of the contract. If we are unsuccessful in mitigating these risks, we may realize gross profits that are different from those originally estimated and may incur losses on projects. Depending on the size of a project, these variations from estimated contract performance could have a significant effect on our operating results for any quarter or year. In some cases, we are able to recover additional costs and profits from the client through the change order process. In general, turnkey contracts to be performed on a fixed-price basis involve an increased risk of significant variations. This is a result of the long-term nature of these contracts and the inherent difficulties in estimating costs, and of the interrelationship of the integrated services to be provided under these contracts whereby unanticipated costs or delays in performing part of the contract can have compounding effects by increasing costs of performing other parts of the contract. Our accounting policy related to contract variations and claims requires recognition of all costs as incurred. Revenue from change orders, extra work and variations in the scope of work is recognized when an agreement is reached with the client as to the scope of work and when it is probable that the cost of such work will be recovered in a change in contract price. Profit on change orders, extra work and variations in the scope of work are recognized when realization is reasonably assured. Also included in contract costs and recognized income not yet billed on uncompleted contracts are amounts we seek or will seek to collect from customers or others for errors or changes in contract specifications or design, contract change orders in dispute or unapproved as to both scope and price, or other customer-related causes of unanticipated additional contract costs

(unapproved change orders). These amounts are recorded at their estimated net realizable value when realization is probable and can be reasonably estimated. Unapproved change orders and claims also involve the use of estimates, and it is reasonably possible that revisions to the estimated recoverable amounts of recorded unapproved change orders may be made in the near term. If we do not successfully resolve these matters, a net expense (recorded as a reduction in revenues), may be required, in addition to amounts that have been previously provided.

We provide services under MSAs and on a project-by-project basis. MSAs are typically one to three years in duration, but can be longer. Under our MSAs, our customers generally agree to use us to provide certain services in a specified geographic region on stipulated terms and conditions, including pricing and escalation. However, most of our contracts, including MSAs and our alliance agreement with Oncor, may be terminated by our customers on short notice. Further, although our customers assign work to us under our MSAs, our customers often have no obligation to assign work to us and are not required to use us exclusively, in some cases subject to our right of first refusal. In addition, many of our contracts, including our MSAs, are opened to public bid and generally attract multiple bidders. Work performed under MSAs is typically billed on a unit-price or time-and-materials basis. In addition, any work encountered in the course of a unit-price project that does not have a defined unit is generally completed on a time-and-materials basis.

Although the terms of our contracts vary considerably, pricing is typically based on a unit-price or fixed-price structure. Under our unit-price contracts, we agree to perform identified units of work for an agreed price. A “unit” can be as small as the installation of a single bolt or a foot of cable or as large as a transmission tower or foundation. The resulting profitability of a particular unit is primarily dependent upon the labor and equipment hours expended to complete the task that comprises the unit. Under fixed-price contracts, we agree to perform the contract for a fixed fee based on our estimate of the aggregate costs of completing the particular project. We are sometimes unable to fully recover cost overruns on our fixed-price contracts. We expect that industry trends could result in an increase in the proportion of our contracts being performed on a unit-price or fixed-price basis resulting in more profitability risk.

Our storm restoration work, which involves high labor and equipment utilization, is typically performed on a time-and-materials basis and is generally more profitable when performed off-system rather than for customers with which we have MSAs. Our ability to allocate resources to storm restoration work depends on our capacity at that time and permission from existing customers to release some portion of our workforce from their projects.

We attempt to manage contract risk by implementing a standard contracting philosophy to minimize liabilities assumed in the agreements with our clients. However, there may be contracts or MSAs in place that do not meet our current contracting standards. While we have made efforts to improve our contractual terms with our clients, this process takes time to implement. We have attempted to mitigate the risk by requesting amendments to our contracts and by maintaining primary and excess insurance, with certain specified limits to mitigate our exposure, in the event of a loss.

On June 12, 2008, we entered into a non-exclusive agreement with Oncor. Due to the extensive scope and long duration of the agreement, we refer to it as an alliance agreement. We summarize below the principal terms of the agreement. This summary is not a complete description of all the terms of the agreement.

Term, Renewals and Extensions. The agreement became effective on August 1, 2008 and will continue until expiration on December 31, 2018, unless extended, renewed or terminated in accordance with its terms.

Provision of Services, Spending Levels and Pricing. Under the agreement, it is anticipated that we will provide Oncor transmission construction and maintenance services (“TCM”), and distribution construction and maintenance services (“DCM”), pursuant to fixed-price, unit-price and time-and-materials structures. The fees we charge Oncor under unit-price and time-and-materials structures are set forth in the agreement, most of which are adjusted annually according to indices provided in the agreement. The

agreement also includes a provision whereby Oncor receives pricing at least as favorable as we charge other customers for any “similar services” (which is not a defined term in the agreement). Management believes, based on our pricing practices and the nature and scope of the services we provide to Oncor, that we are in compliance with this provision.

We frequently hold meetings with Oncor to discuss its forecasted monthly and annual TCM and DCM spending levels. The agreement provides for agreed incentives and adjustments for us and for Oncor according to Oncor’s projected spending levels. Calculations based on projected spending levels are subject to subsequent adjustments based on actual spending levels. The agreement also requires that we provide dedicated resources to Oncor and that we meet or exceed minimum service levels as measured by specified performance indicators.

Termination. Oncor could in some cases seek to terminate for cause or limit our activity or seek to assess penalties against us under the agreement. Oncor may terminate the agreement upon 90-days notice or any work request thereunder without prior notice in each case at its sole discretion and may terminate the agreement upon 30-days notice in the event there is an announcement of the intent to undertake or an actual occurrence of a change in control of Oncor or Willbros Utility T&D Holdings, LLC. Oncor may also terminate the agreement for cause if, among other things, we breach and fail to adequately cure a representation or warranty under the agreement, we materially or repeatedly default in the performance of our material obligations under the agreement or we become insolvent.

In the event Oncor terminates the agreement for convenience or due to an anticipated or actual change of control of Oncor, Oncor must pay us a termination fee. In addition, we would have to adjust a significant portion of our existing customer relationship intangible asset attributed to Oncor which was recorded in connection with the InfrastruX acquisition.

At December 31, 2012, we directly employed a multi-national work force of 12,054 persons, of which approximately 88.0 percent were citizens of the respective countries in which they work. Although the level of activity varies from year to year, we have maintained an average work force of approximately 7,670 over the past five years. The minimum employment during that period has been 3,714 and the maximum was 12,054. At December 31, 2012, approximately 17.4 percent of our employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements. We believe relations with our employees are satisfactory. The following table sets forth the location of employees by work countries as of December 31, 2012:

We own, lease and maintain a fleet of generally standardized construction, transportation and support equipment. In 2012, 2011 and 2010, expenditures for capital equipment were $10,659, $10,047 and $15,635 respectively. At December 31, 2012, the net book value of our property, plant and equipment was approximately $123,985.

All equipment is subject to scheduled maintenance to maximize fleet readiness. We continue to evaluate expected equipment utilization, given anticipated market conditions, and may buy or lease new equipment and dispose of underutilized equipment from time to time.

We lease other facilities used in our operations, primarily sales/shop offices, equipment sites and expatriate housing units in the United States, Canada and Oman. Rent expense for all leased facilities was approximately $12,310 in 2012, $8,754 in 2011 and $7,232 in 2010.

Operational risks are analyzed and categorized by our risk management department and are insured through major international insurance brokers under a comprehensive insurance program, which includes commercial insurance policies, consisting of the types and amounts typically carried by companies engaged in the worldwide engineering and construction industry. We maintain worldwide master policies written mostly through highly-rated insurers. These policies cover our property, plant, equipment and cargo against all normally insurable risks. Other policies cover our workers and liabilities arising out of our operations. Primary and excess liability insurance limits are consistent with industry standards for the level of our asset base. Risks of loss or damage to project works and materials are often insured on our behalf by our clients. On other projects, “builders all risk insurance” is purchased when deemed necessary. Substantially all insurance is purchased and maintained at the corporate level, with the exceptions being certain basic insurance, which must be purchased in some countries in order to comply with local insurance laws.

The insurance protection we maintain may not be sufficient or effective under all circumstances or against all hazards to which we may be subject. An enforceable claim for which we are not fully insured could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. In the future, our ability to maintain insurance, which may not be available or at rates we consider reasonable, may be affected by events over which we have no control, such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001. In 2012, we were not constrained by our ability to bond new projects, nor have we been negatively impacted in early 2013.

Recent scientific studies have suggested that emissions of certain gases, commonly referred to as “greenhouse gases,” may be contributing to warming of the earth’s atmosphere. As a result, there have been a variety of regulatory developments, proposals or requirements and legislative initiatives that have been introduced in the United States (as well as other parts of the world) that are focused on restricting the emission of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.

We do not know and cannot predict whether any proposed legislation or regulations will be adopted or how legislation or new regulations that may be adopted to address greenhouse gas emissions would impact our business segments. Depending on the final provisions of such rules or legislation, it is possible that such future laws and regulations could result in increasing our compliance costs or capital spending requirements or creating additional operating restrictions on us or our customers. It is also possible that such future developments could curtail the demand for fossil fuels and increase the demand for renewable energy sources, which could adversely affect the demand for some of our services and improve the demand for some of our other services. Likewise, we cannot predict with any certainty whether any changes to temperature, storm intensity or precipitation patterns as a result of climate change (or otherwise) will have a material impact on our operations.

Compliance with applicable environmental requirements has not, to date, had a material effect on the cost of our operations, earnings or competitive position. However, as noted above, compliance with amended, new or more stringent requirements of existing environmental regulations or requirements may cause us to incur additional costs or subject us to liabilities that may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

Federal and state legislative and regulatory developments that we believe should encourage electric power transmission and natural gas pipeline infrastructure spending may fail to result in increased demand for our Utility T&D and Oil & Gas services.

In recent years, federal and state legislation has been passed and resulting regulations have been adopted that could significantly increase spending on electric power transmission and natural gas pipeline infrastructure, including the Energy Act of 2005, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and state Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) programs. However, much fiscal, regulatory and other uncertainty remains as to the impact this legislation and regulation will ultimately have on the demand for our Utility T&D and Oil & Gas services. For instance, regulations implementing provisions of the Energy Act of 2005 that may affect demand for our Utility T&D services remain, in some cases, subject to review in various federal courts. Accordingly, the effect of these regulations, once finally implemented, is uncertain and may not result in increased spending on the electric power transmission infrastructure. Continued uncertainty regarding the implementation of the Energy Act of 2005 may result in slower growth in demand for our Utility T&D services.

Renewable energy initiatives, including the recent extension of tax credits for wind and other renewable energy projects that begin construction in 2013, Texas’ Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, or “CREZ” plan, and other RPS initiatives, may not lead to increased demand for our Utility T&D services. A majority of states and Washington D.C. have mandatory RPS programs that require certain percentages of power to be generated from renewable sources. However, for budgetary or other reasons, states may reduce those mandates or make them optional or extend deadlines, which could reduce, delay or eliminate renewable energy development in the affected states. Furthermore, renewable energy

is generally more expensive to produce and may require additional power generation sources as backup. Funding for RPS programs may not be available or may be further constrained as a result of the significant declines in government budgets and subsidies and in the availability of credit to finance the significant capital expenditures necessary to build renewable generation capacity. These factors could lead to fewer projects resulting from RPS programs than anticipated or a delay in the timing of these projects and the related infrastructure, which would negatively affect the demand for our Utility T&D services. Moreover, even if the RPS programs are fully developed and funded, we cannot be certain that we will be awarded any resulting contracts. In addition, infrastructure projects such as those envisioned by CREZ and RPS initiatives are also subject to delays or cancellation due to local factors such as siting disputes, protests and litigation. Before we will receive revenues from infrastructure build-outs associated with any of these projects, substantial advance preparations are required such as engineering, procurement, and acquisition and clearance of rights-of-way, all of which are beyond our control. Investments for renewable energy and electric power infrastructure may not occur, may be less than anticipated or may be delayed, may be concentrated in locations where we do not have significant capabilities, and any resulting contracts may not be awarded to us, any of which could negatively impact demand for our Utility T&D services.

In addition, the increase in long-term demand for natural gas that we believe will benefit from anticipated U.S. greenhouse gas regulations may be delayed or may not occur, which could affect the demand for our Oil & Gas services. It is difficult to accurately predict the timing and scope of any potential federal or state greenhouse gas regulations that may ultimately be adopted or the extent to which demand for natural gas will increase as a result of any such regulations.

We operate primarily in the oil and gas, refinery, petrochemical and electric power industries, providing services to a limited number of clients. Much of our success depends on developing and maintaining relationships with our major clients and obtaining a share of contracts from these clients. The loss of any of our major clients could have a material adverse effect on our operations. One client was responsible for approximately 16.3 percent of total contract revenue in 2012. This client was also responsible for 28.6 percent of our 12 month backlog and 52.5 percent of our total backlog at December 31, 2012.

The above information was disclosed in a filing to the SEC. To see this filing in its entirety, click here.

To receive a free e-mail notification whenever Willbros Group makes a similar move, sign up!

   Auto Refresh