Leighton requests trading halt

By Helen Wright27 March 2012

Australian contractor Leighton has applied for a two-day trading halt in its ordinary shares pending a review of the earnings guidance it released in February.

The company said the suspension was necessary for it to make an announcement to the market with regard to the financial performance of its Airport Link Project in Queensland.

This is one of the contracts which suffered write downs last year that helped drag the company to a full-year loss and a subsequent credit downgrade.

Leighton - a subsidiary of German contractor Hochtief, which itself is majority owned by Spanish company ACS - said in February that the project had stabilised, and forecast underlying profit of AU$ 272 million (US$ 185 million) for the six months from 1 July to 31 December, 2011.

The request for a halt in share trading pending a potential revision of this guidance comes after the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) forced Leighton to pay a penalty of AU$ 300,000 (US$ 316,000) on 16 March in relation to the disclosure surrounding the earnings downgrade it issued in April last year.

Leighton chairman Stephen Johns said that as part of accepting the infringement notices, Leighton had agreed to implement a formal review of its continuous disclosure policies and procedures.

"We recognise that continuous disclosure is extremely important for the efficient operation of the market and will use the review as part of our programme to improve the systems that support our business. We will commence the review as soon as practical," said Mr Johns.

Meanwhile, on 22 March, Leighton's auditor KPMG applied to the ASIC for consent to resign as Leighton's auditor. Leighton will nominate a new auditor at its annual general meeting in May.

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