Philip K. Asherman

Philip K. Asherman, chief executive of CB&I, says he believes prime contractor Toshiba Corp. will finish two delayed and over budget nuclear power-plant projects in Georgia and South Carolina. Losses on the projects have led Toshiba’s chairman to resign, inflicted a $6.3-billion write-off on the firm and plunged its Westinghouse unit, which bought out partner CB&I’s contracts on the two projects in 2015, into a lawsuit with CB&I.

So, on a Feb. 28 conference call for securities analysts, Asherman’s praise for Westinghouse’s parent company was one of the memorable moments in the discussion of the setbacks that CB&I has endured. The company recorded a $313 million loss on net income, after special charges, for the year, compared to a $505 million loss in 2015. Much of the recent 2016 charges came late in the year, and CB&I’s fourth quarter “was very ugly from a financial performance standpoint compared to what analysts were expecting,” wrote investment adviser Daniel Jones.

During the conference call, Asherman said Toshiba could be relied on to finish the two nuclear projects: “Believe them,” he said.

Although in his view CB&I had no contractual responsibility for overruns on the two nuclear projects, Asherman said CB&I “still has 300 employees at work on the power plants.” Since selling its contracts, CB&I has worked on the projects, building reactor modules, supplying pipe spools and finishing containment vessels on a time-and-materials basis.

“The relationship with Toshiba has been and continues to be good,” said Asherman.