Jacobs Engineering Group (NYSE: JEC) and Sterling Construction Company (NASDAQ:STRL) are both construction companies, but which is the better investment? We will compare the two businesses based on the strength of their earnings, risk, profitabiliy, dividends, analyst recommendations, valuation and institutional ownership.

Insider & Institutional Ownership

87.0% of Jacobs Engineering Group shares are held by institutional investors. Comparatively, 73.2% of Sterling Construction Company shares are held by institutional investors. 1.5% of Jacobs Engineering Group shares are held by insiders. Comparatively, 5.2% of Sterling Construction Company shares are held by insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that hedge funds, endowments and large money managers believe a stock will outperform the market over the long term.

Profitability

This table compares Jacobs Engineering Group and Sterling Construction Company’s net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Jacobs Engineering Group 2.05% 8.56% 5.06%
Sterling Construction Company -0.58% -3.79% -1.32%

Earnings & Valuation

This table compares Jacobs Engineering Group and Sterling Construction Company’s revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio EBITDA Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Jacobs Engineering Group $10.19 billion 0.64 $630.50 million $1.72 31.61
Sterling Construction Company $716.97 million 0.50 $16.74 million ($0.15) -88.39

Jacobs Engineering Group has higher revenue and earnings than Sterling Construction Company. Sterling Construction Company is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Jacobs Engineering Group, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Dividends

Jacobs Engineering Group pays an annual dividend of $0.60 per share and has a dividend yield of 1.1%. Sterling Construction Company does not pay a dividend. Jacobs Engineering Group pays out 34.9% of its earnings in the form of a dividend.

Volatility and Risk

Jacobs Engineering Group has a beta of 1.53, suggesting that its stock price is 53% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Sterling Construction Company has a beta of 0.35, suggesting that its stock price is 65% less volatile than the S&P 500.

Analyst Recommendations

This is a summary of recent ratings and price targets for Jacobs Engineering Group and Sterling Construction Company, as reported by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Jacobs Engineering Group 0 6 3 0 2.33
Sterling Construction Company 0 0 2 0 3.00

Jacobs Engineering Group presently has a consensus target price of $61.00, indicating a potential upside of 12.19%. Sterling Construction Company has a consensus target price of $13.50, indicating a potential upside of 1.81%. Given Jacobs Engineering Group’s higher possible upside, research analysts clearly believe Jacobs Engineering Group is more favorable than Sterling Construction Company.

Summary

Jacobs Engineering Group beats Sterling Construction Company on 12 of the 15 factors compared between the two stocks.

About Jacobs Engineering Group

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. is a technical professional services company. The Company provides a range of technical, professional and construction services to industrial, commercial and governmental clients. The Company’s services include Project Services; Process, Scientific, and Systems Consulting Services; Construction Services, and Operations and Maintenance Services. It operates four lines of business (LOBs): Petroleum and Chemicals; Buildings and Infrastructure; Aerospace and Technology, and Industrial. It caters its services to various sectors, such as oil and gas exploration, production and refining; chemicals and polymers; programs for various national governments, including aerospace, defense, and environmental programs; buildings; infrastructure and telecommunications; mining and minerals; pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; power; pulp and paper; technology and manufacturing, and food and consumer products.

About Sterling Construction Company

Sterling Construction Company, Inc. is a heavy civil construction company engaged in the building and reconstruction of transportation and water infrastructure projects in Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Hawaii and other states. The Company’s transportation infrastructure projects include highways, roads, bridges, airfields, ports and light rail. Its water infrastructure projects include water, wastewater and storm drainage systems. The Company operates through heavy civil construction segment. The Company provides its services by using traditional general contracting arrangements, such as lump sum contracts and cost-plus contracts. The Company serves various markets in the United States, including Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California and Hawaii. The Company’s customers include departments of transportation in various states (DOTs), regional transit authorities, airport authorities, port authorities, water authorities and railroads.

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