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Will Downer EDI buck the mining services trend?

Downer EDI (ASX: DOW) on Monday again provided evidence that it may not suffer the same fate as some of its mining services sector rivals. Downer announced that the company had won a $500 million contract at Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia.

The four-and-a-half-year contract is for early mining services including “pre-strip and supplementary mining activity over the initial years” of the mine, primarily focusing on “drill and blast, and load and haul of overburden and ore”. Downer expects to spend around $110 million on capital items, including new and equipment for the project, and will likely employ 220 people over the course of the project.

Downer is one of the larger Australian engineering and maintenance businesses, undertaking infrastructure and mining services projects, as well as the manufacture of rail rolling stock. During its AGM earlier this month, the company reaffirmed guidance for 2013-14 for net profit of around $215 million, in line with the 2012-13 result.

This was in stark contrast to a number of contractors in the mining services industry. Ausdrill (ASX: ASL) downgraded earnings and profit guidance earlier this month, resulting in a 32% drop in the share price, while Forge Group (ASX: FGE) continues to be in an extended trading halt as investors nervously await the expected downgrade.

Foolish takeaway

The Roy Hill project has been a blessing for some of the sector’s mid-sized companies. NRW Holdings (ASX: NWH) earlier this year won a $620 million contract for earthworks, while Forge Group was part of a joint venture that won a $1.47 billion contract for EPC works.

Mining services companies continue to be extremely high risk, as shown by the extended trading halt and rapid capital raising from previous market darling Forge Group. Investors with nerves of steel should consider the better performing companies such as Downer and NRW holdings for exposure to the mining sector.

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Motley Fool contributor Andrew Mudie owns shares in NWH. 

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