Leighton lifts first-quarter profit

Construction giant attributes rise to infrastructure, gas construction results.

Construction giant Leighton Holdings (LEI) has lifted net profit after tax by 24% in the first quarter of 2014 following strong performances in its infrastructure and gas construction divisions.

Net profit lifted to $152 million in the three months to March 31 as Leighton also focused on expanding its margins.

Underlying net profit rose by 29% to $159m in the quarter, compared with the previous corresponding period.

The group reaffirmed its guidance of underlying net profit after tax between $540m and $620m in 2014.

Leighton reported a 7% lift in revenue to $5.7 billion in the quarter and said it is well positioned to participate in a good range of new project opportunities, especially in infrastructure. 

The construction group said it secured $4.4bn of new contracts and extensions in the quarter, including a $453m contract to construct a bypass tunnel in Hong Kong and a $1.9bn joint venture contract to build a highway in Qatar.

Work in hand was $40.9bn, which Leighton said will underpin its profitability for the next few years.

Gearing was 38.5 per cent at the end of the quarter, down from 47.2% in the previous corresponding period, Leighton said.

The results are the first since majority shareholder Hochtief made an offer to lift its holding in the construction group and replaced former chief executive Hamish Tyrwhitt with its own boss Marcelino Fernandez Verdes.