Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : December 2011 Contents futurebuilding
Volume 2 Number 2
Tyrwhitt outlines his vision for Leighton
‘I have my foot hard on the accelerator going
forward,’ says Tyrwhitt.
‘I know where we’ve been. I’m exceptionally
proud of our history. We are moving forward.’
These comments underline the drive of the man
who became the company’s third Chief Executive
in less than a year and who is determined to draw a
line under what he calls the ‘Leighton soap opera’
of recent project missteps and senior management
His message? If you believe in the economic
prospects for Asia, then you ought to believe in
‘We are the only company that has a full
geographic footprint and also provides services
from contract mining through to operation and
‘It’s more than just infrastructure and mining. It’s
the full support to the industry and to the economy,
taking resources all the way through to market and
the opportunities that that brings up.
‘I am a believer in this region and in this market.
If you look at other regions, you couldn’t be in a
better market right now.’
That vision includes remaining in contract
mining, despite the company’s $705 million sale
of HWE Iron Ore entities and assets in Western
Australia to BHP Billiton, which was wrapped up in
‘The HWE deal is about a client who’s decided
to go owner-operator. BHP ’s made it clear what
their drivers were in the transaction,’ Tyrwhitt says.
‘For us contract mining is, and will remain, a
key part of the strategy in a key sector that we’re
The sale generated a pre-tax profit of $225
million, and Tyrwhitt said funds from the sale will
be recycled through the business.
‘We’re recycling capital so that the money
that comes out of that deal goes into mines in
Indonesia, Mongolia, Queensland, Western Australia,
everywhere,’ Tyrwhitt says.
In October, the company restated that it’s on
track to make an after-tax profit for 2011 of between
$600 million and $650 million. That’s after a loss in
2010 after the company counted the costs linked
to the Airport Link project in Brisbane and the
Wonthaggi Desalination plant in Victoria.
Tyrwhitt, who until recently was Managing
Director of Leighton Asia, took over from David
Stewart as Managing Director and CEO. The
Leighton board elected Stephen Johns to take over
as Chairman from David Mortimer. Mortimer had
been overseeing the company’s transition to new
Late last year, Wal King handed over the position
of Leighton CEO and Managing Director after 23
years in the role. Tyrwhitt says he feels no need to
differentiate himself from the one-time chief whose
straight-shooting style and penchant for adventure
holidays attracted the media spotlight.
The company’s steady stream of contracts and a
legion of 55,000 employees means the company has
plenty of chances to renew itself, Tyrwhitt says.
‘This whole issue surrounding transitional
leadership is in a different space from what we do at
the core of our company, which is providing project
management and providing project services,’ Tyrwhitt
‘Every project has a start or an end. With Leighton
we provide relevant services to a market that presents
itself at any point in time.’
Average contract terms are about 18 months,
Tyrwhitt says, allowing the company to rebalance its
focus on different projects and markets, as well as its
reliance on infrastructure or resources.
Of the thousand or so emails Hamish Tyrwhitt received
in August, when his appointment as Leighton Holdings
new Chief Executive was announced, not a single person
expressed any surprise. Now that he’s in the job he’s
coveted since he was 16, Tyrwhitt is wasting little time
identifying growth opportunities at home and abroad.
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