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Sterling Construction returns to profit in 4Q

HOUSTON (AP) -- Sterling Construction Co. returned to a profit in its fourth quarter, free of a hefty impairment charge.

But the contractor for road, water and sewer projects saw its results miss Wall Street's expectations. It also cautioned that its revenue growth excluding acquisitions will likely be limited this year as it deals with tight government spending.

Shares of the company dropped more than 2 percent in morning trading on Monday.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Sterling earned $2.9 million, or 1 cent per share. That compares with a loss of $43.6 million, or $2.72 per share, a year earlier.

The prior-year period included a goodwill impairment charge of $67 million.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 4 cents per share.

Revenue increased 39 percent to $158.1 million from $114 million due to more activity in most of its markets, particularly California and Texas.

Wall Street predicted $162.4 million in revenue.

Sterling's full-year loss narrowed to $297,000, or 26 cents per share, from a loss of $35.9 million, or $2.24 per share, in the previous year.

Annual revenue climbed 26 percent to $630.5 million from $501.2 million.

The Houston company's stock fell 28 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $10.76. The shares have traded in a 52-week range of $7.12 to $11.88.