Both the chairman and CEO of loss-making Australian contractor Leighton have resigned.

Chairman David Mortimer stepped down on 24 August, while CEO David Stewart resigned on 25 August, just over a week after the company reported an AU$ 409 million (US$ 425 million) loss for the 2011 financial year.

Leighton moved swiftly to fill the management void, appointing independent non-executive director Stephen Johns as the company's new chairman, and managing director of Leighton Asia, Hamish Tyrwhitt, as the new CEO and company managing director.

The loss was primarily a result of write-backs of expected profit on the Brisbane Airport Link project in Queensland and desalination projects in Victoria, together with an impairment of Leighton's investment in its Middle East business group, Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG).

New era

Mr Johns said that under David Mortimer and David Stewart's leadership, the Leighton Group had "transitioned into a new era".

"David Stewart has done a very good job stabilising the company, bringing to account complex issues that needed to be dealt with," he said.

Leighton said Bob Cooke, currently general manager commercial for Leighton Asia, would be appointed acting head of Leighton Asia, India and offshore.

The news came after Leighton's full-year loss also impacted the first half profits of its main shareholder, Hochtief. The German contractor, which itself is majority owned by Spanish ACS, recorded a net loss of € 156 million (US$ 223 million) for the first half of the year, compared to a € 88 million (US$ 126 million) profit last year.

But despite its damaging losses, Leighton reported a strong order backlog in its full-year results, with AU$ 46 billion (US$ 48 billion) work in hand at 30 June, up +11% year-on-year. The company said 69% of the work in hand came from Australia and 31% was from foreign markets.

The company is forecasting net profit of between AU$ 600 million (US$ 624 million) and AU$ 650 million (US$ 676 million) for the 12 months to 30 June, 2012.

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