Analyst Lifts KBR Rating On Projects, Valuation

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) ¿ An analyst upgraded KBR Inc. to "Buy" Friday, saying the engineering and construction firm is in line for several large projects in the near future.

Despite losing military contracts in Afghanistan, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Barry Bannister said in a client note that KBR continues to do work for British forces in Afghanistan and the U.S., "perhaps vividly demonstrating their capabilities vis-a-vis competitors."

He said 2010 to 2011 may feature "extraordinarily large contracts" such as liquefied natural gas work in Australia and a petrochemical plant and refinery, both in Saudi Arabia.

Bannister said the Houston company's stock slide in the past week was unwarranted. Shares have fallen 16 percent since Oct. 22, closing at $20.57 Thursday.

He reversed his previous rating on Monday when he downgraded KBR to "Hold" from "Buy" on an assessment that profit could decline significantly this year as the U.S. military becomes less active in Iraq.

KBR said Thursday its third-quarter profit fell 14 percent as revenue declined in its biggest business, government and infrastructure, and in its military work in Iraq with fewer U.S. projects.

Other analysts downplayed KBR's stock slide Thursday. Barclay's Capital analyst Andy Kaplowitz said in an interview that investors do not see any major projects on the horizon and are avoiding KBR.

Analyst Heiko Ihle of Gabelli & Co. said KBR's government and infrastructure business, which handles military work, has "always been the overhang of that stock," he said. "This quarter was no exception."

In trading after the opening bell, KBR shares rose 62 cents, or 3 percent, to $21.19.

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