MDU Resources Group Inc. reported first quarter consolidated adjusted earnings of $22.8 million, or 12 cents per share, compared to $35.6 million, or 19 cents per share for the first quarter of 2014. On a GAAP basis the company reported a loss of $306.1 million, or $1.57 per share, compared to first quarter 2014 earnings of $56.5 million, or 30 cents per share. GAAP results reflect a $315.3 million after-tax noncash write-down of oil and natural gas properties pertaining to a quarterly ceiling test.
"We remain positive about our long-term growth potential despite not being satisfied with our first quarter results," said David L. Goodin, president and CEO of MDU Resources Group. "We have record capital investment opportunities at the utility and pipeline businesses, a refinery that is now in production, clear momentum at our construction materials business along with increasing bidding opportunities at our construction services business and a combined backlog of nearly $1 billion.
"Several factors impacted our results for the quarter when compared to last year including weather, which was a significant factor with our utility operations experiencing some of the warmest weather on record,” Goodin Said. “We continue to expect this business to grow substantially over time with the investment opportunities ahead.”
The construction materials business had its best first quarter since 2007 narrowing its seasonal loss compared to first quarter last year by 38 percent as a result of favorable weather that allowed an early start of the construction season. The business experienced higher construction revenues and margins and higher aggregate and ready-mix concrete margins and volumes.
The construction services group experienced decreased workloads in first quarter when compared to last year's record quarterly earnings, largely the result of the closing out of several stronger-margin large projects a year ago. Although backlog is lower at construction services than a year ago, backlog is higher than it was at year-end, and the group has strong bidding opportunities and anticipates success in adding backlog in the near term.
In addition, construction materials results reflect a $1.5 million charge after tax for a multi-employer pension plan withdrawal liability true up related to the same plan for which an estimate was recorded in the fourth quarter 2014. Construction services results include a $1.4 million expense after tax associated with underperforming non-strategic assets sold in the quarter.