Construction giant Lend Lease is looking to capitalise on the new federal government’s focus on major infrastructure.
The company is also casting its eye on overseas work again, after deliberately scaling back its proportion of earnings from overseas to 25 per cent since the global financial crisis.
Lend Lease’s current $37.4 billion pipeline of work is the biggest in its 50-year history, shareholders were told at its annual general meeting on Friday.
“We are encouraged by the federal election of the coalition government on a platform of infrastructure growth as this means a strong focus on major projects and on the funding model for those projects,” Chairman David Crawford said.
“This makes it a very attractive space in which to play.”
Chief executive Steve McCann said he wanted to focus on pursuing new development opportunities in Asia, where growth was strong. The company also would cautiously increase its US portfolio, where residential construction was lifting, he said.
“We’ve significantly repositioned the business back to our home market in the last few years,” Mr McCann said.
“We are now aiming to derive circa 60 per cent to 70 per cent of our income from Australia and 30 per cent to 40 per cent from overseas.
“Therefore, we will increase our focus on the offshore markets over the next few years.”
Shareholders approved the company’s executive pay policy, a year after delivering a first strike against it remuneration plan.
However, Lend Lease’s board faced hostile questions from shareholders accusing it of unethical behaviour and culpability related to losses incurred by investors from a $500 million collapse of a retirement home owner, plus an FBI fraud case investigation in the US.
Mr Crawford argued the events that led to the Prime Retirement and Aged Care Property Trust’s collapse occurred before Lend Lease bought management rights of the company.
Environmental activists also questioned the board about its plans to build the Abbot Point coal port close to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.
Mr Crawford said no decision had been made yet on the project but he defended the company’s record on sustainability issues.
By Greg Roberts