VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) ¿ Northwest Pipe Co. shares tumbled Thursday after the maker of welded steel pipes said it has delayed the release of its third-quarter financial results, but that it expects to post a $1 million loss. The Vancouver, Wash.-based company said the financial report for the three months ended Sept. 30 has been delayed "pending the conclusion of an ongoing internal investigation of certain accounting matters, including certain revenue recognition practices." The investigation is being conducted by the board of directors' audit committee and independent professionals, the company said. Northwest Pipe said it plans to publish the results "as soon as practicable" after the investigation and any further accounting work that may be needed. On a preliminary basis, however, Northwest Pipe estimated it lost $1 million, down from net income of $10.2 million during the same period a year earlier. Estimated revenue fell by nearly half to $67 million from $124.3 million in the third quarter of 2008. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, on average, had predicted a profit of 28 cents per share on revenue of $73.7 million. Wall Street estimates typically exclude one-time items.
Northwest Pipe said revenue and earnings declined largely due to volume decreases across its product lines, with further negative impacts caused by lower prices and a less favorable product mix. Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, President and CEO Brian W. Dunham said the company sees "mixed signals," with its order backlog at the end of the third quarter having fallen to $125 million from $190 million three months earlier. More than $30 million of that decline came from the previously announced cancellation of a USEC project. "However, we still had a difficult quarter in the market," he said. "Many jobs were postponed, but we also booked orders at less than our usual rate. Our operations in the fourth quarter will continue to be challenging." Northwest Pipe expects "continued, incremental improvement" in its tubular products business margins, while results for its water transmission division are expected to be similar to third-quarter results. "We do expect an improved bidding environment and stronger bookings in the fourth quarter," he said. Shares of Northwest Pipe fell $4.01, or 12.8 percent, to $27.22 in afternoon trading.