Leighton revamp could involve asset sales
Leighton Holdings could offload some of its businesses or introduce partners as the construction, engineering and mining giant moves to simplify its structure and lift profits.
Leighton, which employs about 53,000 people, wants to streamline operations and management and cut costs.
“Our overall objective is to generate sustainable, cash-backed profits for all our shareholders,” Leighton chief executive Marcelino Fernández Verdes said on Thursday.
Many of Leighton’s subsidiaries carry out similar work.
Leighton’s management intends to eliminate that duplication and focus on key activities: construction, mining, engineering and public private partnerships.
Options are being considered for the John Holland contracting and engineering business, and Leighton’s services and property operations.
They include selling the assets or introducing new business partners.
“The scope of any divestments is yet to be decided,” Mr Fernandez Verdes said.
Leighton hopes to complete any divestments – should it decide to follow that path – by March 2015.
The changes announced by Leighton could result in job losses, but Leighton says its focus is not on reducing the size of its workforce.
“We are looking at the way of combining the businesses in a different way,” Mr Fernández Verdes said.
“We are not focused on a reduction of people, jobs, or whatever.”
But Mr Fernandez Verdes said once the group was simplified, “consequences” would obviously follow.
Mr Fernandez Verdes said it was too early to say if there were parties interested in the Leighton operations that might be divested.
Similarly, it was too early to quantify cost savings that may result from the restructure.
Mr Fernandez Verdes has been leading a review of Leighton’s business since taking the top job in March.
He is also the head of Germany-based, Spanish-owned construction company Hochtief, which recently increased its control of Leighton.
OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said investors appeared pleased with Leighton’s announcement of a restructure and potential asset sales because it should help reduce debt.
“Share are being marked up just on the back of (Leighton) moving to get their balance sheet in order, which has been a long time in coming,” he said.
But Mr Le Brun said the inclusion of the John Holland business among assets that could be sold had raised some questions because it was profitable and a significant contributor to Leighton’s overall group results.
Leighton shares climbed 34 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to $20.15.