RPT-Australia's Leighton faces class action over profit write-downs
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SYDNEY Oct 30 (Reuters) - Leighton Holdings Ltd, Australia's biggest builder, faces a class action lawsuit from shareholders over write-downs in some of its projects in 2011, another blow to the company accused this month of corruption in the local media.
Leighton, majority-owned by Germany's Hochtief, denied the basis for the latest claim in a filing to the Australian Stock Exchange.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn said on Wednesday it had launched a class action against Leighton on behalf of all shareholders who bought shares between Aug. 16, 2010 and April 11, 2011.
"Leighton failed to disclose to the market material information about the deteriorating performance of its Brisbane Airport Link, and Victorian Desalination Plant projects as well as the Habtoor Leighton Group joint venture in the Middle East," Maurice Blackburn said in a statement.
In response, Leighton said in a statement: "As previously announced in September 2011 and May 2013, Leighton Holdings denies the claim and will vigorously defend the class action."
Leighton reported a A$427 million full year loss for the 2011 financial year, largely due to $1.1 billion write-downs relating to those projects, just two months after the company forecast a A$480 million net profit.
On the first day after the profit write-down, Leighton's shares fell about 14 percent, Maurice Blackburn said.
In 2012, Leighton was fined A$300,000 by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission for not complying with continuous disclosure obligations, in relation to the profit write-down.
Maurice Blackburn also said it was going to investigate a claim against Leighton for losses related to corruption allegations reveal led in media reports earlier this month.
Leighton shares plunged 10 percent on Oct. 3, when media reported Leighton senior executives, including highly regarded former CEO Wal King, knew about plans to pay alleged multimillion-dollar kickbacks in Iraq, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Responding to the media reports at the time, Leighton said it was not aware of any new allegations or instances of ethics breaches beyond already disclosed bribery cases in Iraq and Indonesia. It declined to comment further on the Iraq and Indonesia breaches as they are under investigation or in court.
A Leighton spokesman contacted by Reuters offered no further comment from that in the company statements.
The company's shares climbed 0.9 percent to A$17.80 by 0444 GMT on Wednesday. (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Stephen Coates)
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