MORE than $ 957 million has been wiped off the market value of construction giant Leighton as investors worry about the impact of corruption allegations.
Analysts are warning the company faces a potential cashflow crisis if clients react to media reports of bribes being paid for overseas contracts, and cancel non-binding agreements with Leighton.
The company’s shares lost another 80 cents, or 4.6 per cent, on Friday to $ 16.74.
That follows a 10.4 per cent fall on Thursday, when Fairfax Media reported senior executives at Leighton were aware of bribes paid in order to win contracts in Iraq, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Leighton says its directors have always carried out their duties with appropriate care and diligence, while former chief executive Wal King has denied he knew of alleged corruption in the company’s operations in Iraq.
Deutsche Bank analyst Craig Wong-Pan said the major immediate implication for Leighton was damage to its reputation, which could start costing it new contracts.
“If clients say ‘we don’t want to associate with a company that has those instances of corruption’, there could be less contracts awarded to Leighton,” he told AAP.
The $ 400 million it was owed for the Iraqi oil pipeline contract in Basra, the subject of corruption claims, was also under threat.
“I just see that there’s increased risk to them collecting the full amount,” Mr Wong-Pan said.
Analysts from Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Macquarie Equities also said they were concerned about threats to the $ 500 million of cashflow the company had targetted this year if it struggled with collecting cash from offshore clients.
Its $ 42 billion pipeline of work in hand was also at greater risk, IG market strategist Evan Lucas.
“Those contracts are under agreement but they are not necessarily binding agreements that can be cancelled – so they could actually lose some of that pipeline,” he said.
Collecting unpaid debts was a problem for Leighton before Thursday’s reports, with $ 500 million in net project underclaims sparking criticism from analysts earlier in the year.
The company’s forecast $ 520 million to $ 600 million underlying full year profit was under threat, Mr Lucas said.
“If you don’t have cashflow coming in, then you can’t make profit,” he said.