SYDNEY Feb 13 Leighton Holdings Ltd,
Australia's largest construction company, reported a
smaller-than-expected 3 percent fall in second-half net profit
and forecast a stronger 2013, sending its shares up 4 percent.
Leighton, which has been plagued by losses from key
projects, posted a net profit for the six months to end December
2012 of A$335.4 million, based on calculations from full-year
Full year net profit was A$450 million, compared with a loss
of A$405.7 million in 2011, at the top end of Leighton's
downgraded forecast of A$400 million to A$450 million.
Leighton said it expected 2013 underlying net profit to rise
by as much as a third to A$520 million-A$600 million from A$448
million in 2012, as it puts its project losses behind it and as
construction markets in Asia and Australia grow.
The company, controlled by Spain's ACS, is selling
its intercity fibre-optic business, known as NextGen and two
smaller data businessers Metronode and Infoplex, to cut debt.
The NextGen sale could bring in up to A$870 million,
Citigroup analysts estimate, while Morgan Stanley expects a sale
price of between A$625 million and A$750 million.
The company did not comment on the sales process.
Canadian pension fund Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan has
emerged as a final-round bidder for NextGen while Hong Kong
telecommunications company PCCW Ltd is looking at the
two smaller data businesses, according to Reuters sources.
The delayed construction of a water desalination plant in
the state of Victoria, and a road link to Brisbane airport in
Queensland state -- both now completed -- generated about A$2
billion in losses for the company.
Leighton has also been hit by a slowdown in China that has
forced miners to scale back on their most ambitious expansion
It has A$295 million of debt maturing in July 2014,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
Leighton shares rose as high as A$21.85 and last traded 4.5
percent higher at A$21.75.
(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang and Lincoln Feast; Editing by