UPDATE 2-Layne Christensen Q1 blows past Street; shares soar

Wed Jun 2, 2010 12:03pm EDT

* Q1 EPS $0.34 vs est $0.22

* Revenue up 13 pct at $230.7 mln vs est $216.9 mln

* Shares up as much as 17 percent (Adds analysts' comments, conference call details, share movement)

By Krishna N. Das

BANGALORE, June 2 (Reuters) - Drilling and construction services provider Layne Christensen Co's (LAYN.O) quarterly results raced past market estimates as revenue at its mineral exploration division rose 85 percent, sending its shares up as much as 17 percent.

The company said activity in its mineral exploration division continues to improve but expects lower natural gas prices to reduce earnings in the coming quarters.

"Layne Energy unfortunately is stuck in the natural gas pricing funk and really can't do a great deal about it. They will begin to be a drag on earnings going forward," a company executive said on a conference call with analysts.

Natural gas prices now stand just above $4 per million British thermal unit. The company was selling gas at a higher price under forward sales contracts, which rolled off on April 1.

Mineral exploration division revenue jumped to $45.9 million in the first quarter, helped by strong business in North America and Africa, but energy revenue fell 7.5 percent.

"Going forward, they will have lower pricing in the energy business, at least in the short term, based on current market rates for natural gas," Gabelli & Co analyst Anthony Fritz said.

But analysts are bullish on other businesses.

"We are expecting energy business to post losses throughout the year but that is well baked in. Positive things going on elsewhere in the portfolio offset loss at the energy division," Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Ryan Connors said.

Gabelli's Fritz said the water business had couple of good projects and backlog remained pretty stable, which are both good signs.

"Water business is in the right direction, margins are getting better," Connors, who backed his buy rating on the stock, said.

The water infrastructure business, which saw marginal improvement in the first quarter, contributed about 75 percent to Layne's total revenue in the quarter.

Net income for the first quarter ended April 30 rose to $6.6 million, or 34 cents a share, from $1.0 million, or 5 cents a share, last year. Analysts had expected 22 cents.

Revenue rose 13 percent to $230.7 million, compared with estimates of $216.9 million. [ID:nWNAB5486]

Shares of the Mission Woods, Kansas-based company rose to a high of $27.76, before paring some of the gains to trade up 11 percent at $26.38 in midday trade Wednesday on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Krishna N. Das in Bangalore; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan and Maju Samuel)

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