MDU Resources Group Inc. reported first quarter earnings of $52.1 million, or 26 cents per share, compared to first quarter 2020 earnings of $25.1 million, or 13 cents per share.
“Our businesses are off to a very strong start in 2021,” said David L. Goodin, president and CEO of MDU Resources. “We had record earnings at our construction services and pipeline businesses, increased natural gas sales volumes at our utility operations and a stronger start to the year at our construction materials business. With the strong first quarter results and our expectation of continuing robust demand for our products and services, we are raising the lower end of our 2021 earnings guidance.
“As we continue ‘Building a Strong America,’ we are well-positioned to capitalize on a federal infrastructure funding package and believe it will provide substantial longer-term opportunities across our two platforms of businesses,” Goodin said.
The construction materials business experienced a seasonal loss of $30.8 million in the first quarter, compared to a loss of $38.2 million in the first quarter of 2020. Favorable weather allowed for an earlier start on the construction season in certain areas compared to last year.
As previously announced, this business during the first quarter acquired an aggregates operation in Portland, Ore., and also received a key permit to expand operations at a Texas aggregate quarry. The construction materials backlog of work at March 31 was $819 million, compared to $905 million at March 31 last year.
The construction services business had record first quarter earnings of $29.8 million, compared to $16.8 million in first quarter 2020. Results in 2020 included a negative $6.7 million, after tax, out-of-period adjustment to correct revenue recognition on a construction contract.
The company continues to see particularly strong demand for high tech and utility-related construction services. Its backlog of work at March 31 set a first quarter record at $1.273 billion, compared to $1.267 billion at March 31 last year.
The electric and natural gas utility earned $46.9 million in the first quarter, compared to $43.7 million in the first quarter of 2020. Earnings at the pipeline business were a record $8.9 million for the first quarter, compared to $7.4 million in the first quarter last year.
For 2021, MDU Resources projects construction materials revenues in the range of $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion and construction services revenues in the range of $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion, with margins comparable to or slightly higher than 2020.