Leighton review could see Thiess and John Holland sold, merged

Leighton Holdings’ majority shareholder is considering whether to merge or ditch business arms John Holland and Thiess amid a major shake-up at the company.

Hochtief, which has increased its share in Leighton from 58.77 per cent to almost 75 per cent, said it was undertaking a review of the company which would also lead to job losses.

'As a result of the general review by Leighton already under way, some employees may become redundant,'' Hochtief said in its bidder's statement.

Shares in the company have fallen sharply as investors worry about the construction giant’s future amid lower dividend speculation and more than $5 billion in debts.

Hochtief has also flagged plans to change the structure of the business model of Leghton’s five companies.

Hochtief said the review could alter the way Leighton Contractors, Thiess, John Holland, Leighton Asia, India and Offshore and Leighton Properties are managed and change ''the number and functions of employees'' as divestments of assets and businesses are looked in to.

Last week, Leighton axed chief executive Hamish Tyrwhitt and chief financial officer Peter Gregg, in line with Hochtief's request to change Leighton's management and board.

Tyrwhitt has been replaced by Hochtief chief executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes as the company undertakes a review.

Spanish construction group ACS owns more than 50 per cent of Hochtief and is aiming to create a streamlined global company.

It has previously stated that Leighton businesses such as Thiess, John Holland and Leighton Contractors could be "more efficiently structured."

According to SMH, former Leighton executives have raised fears that Hochtief will aggressively reshape the company and sell well-known assets.

Predictions are that the company will replicate its operating structure in Germany, and carve Leighton into new divisions such as mining, infrastructure and services.

The general review of Leighton is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

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