March 14, 2012 / 11:18 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sterling Construction posts surprise 4th-qtr loss

March 14 (Reuters) - Sterling Construction Co Inc , a specialist in building and repairing roads and bridges, posted a surprise fourth-quarter loss, partly hurt by the delay in federal funding for infrastructure.

Sterling, which works on projects in Texas, Utah and Nevada, said it expects 2012 revenue to grow more than 25 percent, but profit to fall on lower margins.

Gross margins for the quarter was 3.4 percent, down from 20.8 percent last year, as the company faced cost overruns on certain projects and a shortage of skilled workers.

The U.S. government is divided over the passage of the $260 billion transportation bill. The bill aims to rebuild roads, bridges and railways over five years.

The continuing failure of the federal government to enact a federal highway bill is expected to adversely affect infrastructure capital expenditure in all markets in 2012, the company said.

October-December net loss was $43.6 million, or $2.72 a share, compared with a net income of $9.4 million, or 54 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding items, the company lost 17 cents a share.

Revenue fell 17 percent to $114 million.

Analysts had expected earnings of 14 cents a share on revenue of $137.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of the company closed at $10.28 on Tuesday on the Nasdaq.

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