Australian strains hit Hochtief: firm

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Problems at the Australian company Leighton plunged the biggest German construction group Hochtief into loss in the first quarter of 2011, it said on Monday.

Leighton has run into problems on several projects, in part owing to floods and a cyclone in Australia, and those woes saw its parent group Hochtief post a net loss of 169.5 million euros ($240 million) for the three month period.

One year earlier it reported a net profit of 32.1 million euros.

At the operating level, Hochtief suffered a loss of 414.3 million euros this time, compared with a profit of 152 million in the year-earlier period.

One bright spot was in the orders area, as they gained 57 percent to 5.41 billion euros to bring the group's total to 45.6 billion euros, a gain of 25 percent.

Hochtief is profiting from a pick-up in activity in Europe, the Americas, and its concessions division, but all that was not enough to offset problems in Australia, which include losses linked to the Brisbane Airport Link project.

The Spanish construction group ACS is gradually taking over Hochtief, which said last month it expected 2011 pre-tax profit to be about half of the 2010 figure of 757 million euros.

© 2011 AFP

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