December's Seasonal Increase

Mirroring the slowdown in construction volume in cold-weather months, the industry's December unemployment rate climbed to 11.4% from November's 8.6% as the industry shed 16,000 jobs. But last year also proved to be much better for the construction workforce than 2012, as the industry added an average of 10,000 jobs per month, according to the latest Dept. of Labor figures. The data reflects a split between residential work, which gained 6,200 jobs, and the non-residential and heavy-civil markets, which lost 12,900 and 8,800 jobs, respectively.

AMEC Is Set to Buy Foster Wheeler in $3.2-Billion Deal

U.K.-based global engineer AMEC plc said on Jan. 13 that it has agreed to acquire contractor Foster Wheeler AG in an estimated $3.2-billion stock-and-cash deal that would be the industry's largest since contractor CB&I completed, in early 2013, a $3-billion buy of The Shaw Group Inc. The latest deal would create a 42,000-employee giant and end both firms' hunt for a strategic partner to expand reach geographically and deeper into the oil-and-gas sector.

Foster Wheeler has been "in play" since last fall, says Maxim Sytchev, an industry analyst for Dundee Securities, Toronto. Jamie Cook, sector analyst for Credit Suisse, says "the deal makes sense strategically," based on similar business models. But in a Jan. 14 note, Cook questions whether Foster Wheeler "dramatically improves AMEC's positioning in the U.S. as both lack construction capabilities which could become a big constraint in the market and likely a source of competitive advantage." The deal, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals, is not set to close until later this year. AMEC ranks at No. 5 on ENR's list of the Top 150 Global Design Firms, with $4.875 billion in 2013 engineering revenue.

Terex Ends Up the Winner in Long Patent Infringement Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Metso Corp. will not be able to appeal an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit regarding a patent-infringement lawsuit the company brought against Terex Corp.'s Powerscreen unit. The high court effectively affirmed the appellate court's decision, which overturned a $31.6-million judgment against Terex after a jury trial in New York City. The appellate court found that Metso's patent for lateral folding conveyors for crushing and screen equipment, which makes the machines more easily transportable, was invalid.

Alaska Pushes for New Line

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) is proposing legislation to replace the 2007 Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. On Jan. 10, he announced his plan for an equity partnership with TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. and three oil and gas producers to construct a pipeline from the North Slope to a liquefied-natural-gas plant on the state's south-central coast. Cost estimates range from $45 billion to more than $60 billion. An agreement among the parties will allow negotiations to begin on a contract, which the legislature must approve.