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Three engineering stock picks Add to ...

Construction companies may eventually gain from billions of dollars in planned infrastructure spending in North America, but before they get their hands on any cash, there's another group of companies positioned to get a boost from public spending sprees - engineering and architectural design firms.

While the S&P engineering and construction subsector has plunged 50 per cent in the last 12 months, the white-collar side of the equation has fared better, with engineering and architecture firms facing an average decline of 4 per cent. Their losses have been tempered by recent consolidation in the industry, a trend toward diversification and stable government contracts, Blackmont Capital analyst Chris Blake said.

Here are three Canadian companies that could capitalize on a bonanza of stimulus-inspired projects:

Genivar Income Fund

Yesterday's close $22.61, up 20¢

Genivar performs feasibility and economic studies, preliminary design and environmental planning from its base in Montreal.

"Despite the slowdown in overall Canadian construction activity, we believe the company is well-positioned," Mr. Blake said, citing Genivar's expertise in municipal infrastructure and transportation projects.

Since 73 per cent of its sales are in Quebec and Ontario, the 50-year-old company should be able to grow by 5 to 6 per cent between 2009-2011, he said.

Eleven analysts follow the company's shares, according to Bloomberg, with an average 12-month price target of $26.42. The target is just shy of the company's 52-week high of $27.95, reached in late May and well off its 52-week low of $16.50 in October. It earned $6.2-million in its fourth quarter.

IBI Group

Yesterday's close $13.12, down 53¢

IBI Income Fund focuses on urban development - building facilities, transportation networks and systems technology. Its international scope led to a "buy" rating from Canaccord Adams.

"The outlook for the fund remains strong given its geographic diversification and exposure to the public sector," analyst Yuri Lynk said. "The fund should continue to see growth in public sector work, especially in new regions such as China, India and the Gulf."

Eight analysts follow the shares, with six "buy" ratings and two "holds." Their average 12-month price target is $18.10. It earned $3.2-million in the fourth quarter.

Stantec Inc.

Yesterday's close $26.13, up 19¢

Even without a boost from infrastructure spending, Canaccord Adams has a "buy" rating on Stantec STN shares. Analyst Sara Elford said the recent acquisition of environmental consulting firm Jacques Whitford should help the firm's prospects.

"Including Jacques Whitford and 2008 acquisitions, management is still targeting overall growth of roughly 15 per cent this year," she said.

Mr. Blake said Stantec's diversity - it consults on planning, engineering, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, surveying and geomatics, environmental sciences, project management, and project economics for infrastructure and facilities projects - is the key to its success.

Thirteen analysts follow the company, according to Bloomberg, with eight "buy" ratings and five "holds." Their average 12-month price target is $27.75. It earned $19.9-million in the last quarter.

 
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