Robert G. Card, new CEO of SNC-Lavalin, promises to put the firm's "house in order" in the wake of an ethics scandal he inherited from previous management, now gone from the Montreal global engineer. He presented a mixed outlook for results this year, however. In a March 8 report to analysts, Card said year-end 2012 backlog "remained strong" at $9.85 billion, but lower earnings included "unfavorable cost reforecasts," largely from problem projects in North Africa and Russia. Margins fell for most of the firm's industry segments in 2012 compared to 2011, while its hydrocarbons-chemical unit posted a loss.
Card, a former executive of U.S.-based CH2M Hill, has been CEO since last October. Noting "several not-great legacy projects," he said the firm was "cleaning them up." Despite issues on one African project, Card said SNC-Lavalin's power segment will contribute to the firm's bottom line in 2013 and noted anticipated returns also from highway concessions. "There's plenty of business in our pipeline to create a great result," he said. "We have to get to the bottom line. With the distractions of last year, we weren't moving as fast as we should have." Card said he is rigorously reviewing project bids and, to be unveiled in May, strategy changes.
Leslie Quinton, SNC-Lavalin senior vice president, says another former manager filed a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit against the firm in March; the suit is for $1.2 million. Reports say it claims executives covered up payments to agents on a dam project in Angola. Quinton says the manager "was terminated for cause in January," that his claims are without merit and that the firm is strengthening internal controls.
Quinton also says the firm is cooperating with a provincial corruption probe. At a March 14 hearing in Montreal, an SNC-Lavalin vice president said executives solicited allegedly illegal annual political donations from employees between 1998 and 2010. Quinton confirms "an internal investigation under way" related to the testimony but disputes press reports that the payments were illegal at the time.