TORONTO - Aecon Group Inc. (ARE.TO) beat analyst expectations as its net loss was cut by more than half in the first quarter on a 20-per-cent growth in revenues and a higher backlog.

The Toronto-based construction firm says it lost $9.8 million or 16 cents per diluted share for the period ended March 31, compared with a loss of $19.2 million or 32 cents per share a year earlier.

Revenues increased by $107 million to reach $650 million. The increase would have been 35 per cent excluding the contract mining business sold last November from the prior-year results.

The operating loss of $10.8 million was about half the $22.2-million operating loss in the first quarter of 2018.

Aecon says its backlog grew 46 per cent to $6.7 billion, from $4.6 billion a year ago. However, the value of new contracts awarded in the quarter fell to $578 million from $910 million in the same period in 2018.

The company was expected to lose 25 cents per share on $505.9 million in revenues, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters Eikon.