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These are dark days for the engineering and design sector, with bribery allegations flying from all directions, but Stantec remains a bright light.

Just look at the company's stock price performance. The shares are up 30 per cent in the past year, and 54 per cent from their trough last July.

The last time Stantec reported quarterly earnings, organic growth was the hot topic. Here was a company that simply pounded the pavement and got solid results, particularly in its industrials practice.

This quarter, it's all about acquisitions. Organic growth still exists – about 6 per cent overall – but Stantec is starting to see the fruits from scooping up seven companies for $100-million in 2012. Acquisitions are already driving 25 per cent of the growth in the industrials division last quarter. Better yet, many of 2012's deals came near the end of the year, so the additional earnings haven't really been realized just yet.

The shareholders who waited it out are being rewarded for sticking with the stock. With better cash flows, the company boosted its dividend 10 per cent this quarter – a payout that was first put in place only last year.

But there's also a cost for the stock's rapid rise. At this point, there's an argument to be made that it's over-priced. "While we continue to believe that Stantec is well positioned to continue to financially outperform given its diverse revenue stream and flexible cost structure, we believe that this is now more properly reflected in the stock's valuation given the multiple expansion seen over the past year," noted Cormark Securities analyst Sarah Hughes.

As she noted, it might be "time for a pause."

(Tim Kiladze is a Globe and Mail Capital Markets Reporter.)

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