Leighton's misfortune makes Hochtief's fortune

LEIGHTON Holdings’ majority shareholder German construction giant Hochtief yesterday revealed it took advantage of the recent slump in Leighton’s share price to up its stake in the multi-billion dollar Australian company.

A Fairfax Media investigation revealing that former Leighton executives allegedly resorted to bribery to win contracts overseas triggered a sharp sell-off in the company's share price from around $20 last month to $17.28 at close of trade yesterday.

In a notice filed with the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday afternoon, Hochtief said it had bought a further 450,000 shares in Leighton on Friday, raising its stake in the company to 56.52% from 56.39%.

It is the first time Hochtief has topped up its Leighton shares since mid-year when it acquired 8.4 million shares over several days of trading.

Asked for comment, Leighton Holdings referred CIN to a statement the company made in June when Hochtief increased its stake in Leighton to 54.96%.

At the time, Leighton Holdings chairman Bob Humphris said Hochtief's additional investment demonstrated its confidence in the Leighton Group's business model, management and outlook for the business.

"We have enjoyed a long and beneficial relationship with Hochtief," he said.

"Hochtief has a firm belief in Leighton's ability to create value for all shareholders and we believe that will continue.

"Hochtief has also advised Leighton of its intention to exercise its right to creep subject to prevailing market conditions and provisions of the Corporations Act.

"At a recent board meeting Hochtief also confirmed that it continues to support the independence of the board."

Leighton Holdings shares were last trading at $16.94.


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