Competition in the building and construction sector remains fierce but through innovation and expansion, key players in the industry continue to stand tall.
According to Allard Nooy, director of infrastructure development, Leighton Asia (Northern) Limited, the company has a unique combination of local knowledge and extensive international experience and this has made it the international contractor of choice in the countries in which it operates.
"Our on-ground presence throughout the region allows us to develop local staff and enables us to better understand the local operating environments," Mr Nooy says.
Listed on the Sydney stock exchange in 1962, the Leighton Group (headquartered in Sydney with a revenue for 2006 of US$7.6 billion) is Australia's largest project development and contracting group. The company is in turn 53 per cent owned by the German giant HOCHTIEF AG, which is the largest international contractor in the world. Leighton has over 4,000 employees in Asia. Leighton Asia (Northern) operates in Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Guam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and is headquartered in Hong Kong.
Leighton Asia (Northern) focuses on civil engineering and infrastructure, building, rail, mining, marine, oil and gas, water, environmental services, process and telecommunications, and achieves annual revenue of around US$300 million. In Hong Kong Leighton is involved in or has completed a range of projects including the 2.1-kilometre Eagle's Nest tunnel from Butterfly Valley to Shatin Valley, the 18-hectare Central Reclamation project which included the construction of the new Star Ferry terminal, the KCR's Kowloon Southern Link, the design and construction of the permanent aviation fuel facility for Hong Kong international airport and the Shenzhen to Tai Po twin submarine gas pipeline.
With diverse capabilities and 30 years' experience in Asia, other recent projects include pipelines, roads, power plants, rail lines, contract mining and a number of manufacturing facilities.
Mr Nooy notes that during the last two years the focus of the work on hand has shifted from infrastructure projects to a 50/50 split with building projects, driven in part by the construction boom in Macau, where the company has just completed the second phase of the Wynn Resort and expects to commence the third shortly. The company is also well advanced on the City of Dreams project in Macau, another large-scale casino and entertainment project on the Cotai strip.
"Our clients are internationally recognised and extremely quality- conscious," Mr Nooy adds. "Our work in Macau and throughout the region is known for being on time, or early, and within budget. One of our strengths is to be able to excel at work in the joint venture format and this has enabled us to take on very complex projects. We are well known for our ability to forge alliances and partnerships. Additionally, our staff reflects the open-mindedness and flexibility needed in the challenge of dealing with a diverse cultural work environment."
As well, the company's in-house management systems, quality assurance and control programmes are well-respected. The company is also considered within the industry as a leader in safety and environmental management.
Leighton is a company that hangs on to its people and according to Mike Rawbone, regional HR manager for Leighton Asia (Northern), turnover at the company hovers around a miniscule one per cent, a full 10 per cent below industry average.
"Even during the cyclical downturns in the industry Leighton has held fast to a strategy of no layoffs, reduction in pay or loss of bonus. This investment in people has paid off in terms of loyalty and the development of a unique corporate culture," he notes. "Mobility is a requirement for our employees and sometimes you have to go where the projects are, but this is also our strength because we have a good geographical spread which evens out the regional work."
He also notes that Leighton works with local and overseas universities to target undergraduate engineers, and provides scholarships and traineeships.
Leighton has an investment rating that is unprecedented in the industry and often undertakes investments in their own projects. It excels at design and construction solutions and has a singular record in terms of specific environmental, safety and health standards.
The company produces creative technical, engineering and construction solutions and is able to integrate these aspects efficiently into large, complex projects. "This is really where the company pulls ahead of the competition — we can do this in the joint venture environment," Mr Nooy concludes.