Shares of URS gained for the first time in three days on speculation the San Francisco-based company that builds bridges and power stations has put itself up for sale.
URS hired Citigroup and DBO Partners to contact potential buyers and gauge interest, Reuters reported unnamed people as saying. JANA Partners, an activist investor fund, has pressured URS to boost shareholder value, Reuters said.
URS owns a surviving portion of the former Morrison-Knudsen Corp., the 20th century Boise construction giant that fell on hard times and went bankrupt in 1996.
Montana billionaire Dennis Washington MK, assumed its chairmanship and in 2000 renamed it Washington Group International. URS bought Washington Group in 2007 and still employs several hundred people in its Energy and Construction unit at Washington Group Plaza, the former MK headquarters complex at 720 Park Blvd.
JANA Partners is the largest shareholder in URS with a 9.8 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. SouthernSun Asset Management is the second largest holder with an 8.2 percent stake. URS has a market value today of $3.6 billion.
URS closed the weeks regular trading up 2.1 percent to $52.02 after rising as much as 11 percent earlier Friday. Fluor, the largest publicly traded U.S. engineering and construction firm, fell 0.7 percent to $77, and competitor Jacobs Engineering Group climbed 1.3 percent to $53.85.
Construction companies have seen their backlog of work rise as oil and gas companies build facilities to take advantage of increasing production from shale fields in the United States.
As a result of an agreement with JANA, URS said in March that its board of directors would form a "value creation committee" that would hire an investment bank to conduct a strategic review of the company. The company also agreed to add four new independent board members.
Sam Ramraj, URS vice president of investor relations, didnt immediately respond to a voice message left on his office telephone. Delia Cannan, a spokeswoman for URS through Sard Verbinnen, didnt immediately return telephone and emailed messages seeking comment.
The Idaho Statesman contributed.