Fulton Hogan, a giant of the roading and civil construction sector, is hoping to put a bad year behind it after winning $3.7 billion of work.

Managing director Nick Miller said yesterday that the Australasian civil engineering, contracting and resources business had suffered a big bottom-line profit drop, from last year's $73.9 million to $7.9 million this year.

He blamed this on rapid growth which he said had come at a price.

But he also said the business had won a tremendous amount of work.


"Our Australian construction business posted losses due to management challenges, prolonged wet weather, growing pains from an earlier acquisition, underperforming projects and costs of changes to address these performance issues," Miller said.

But business was ahead of budget in the first quarter of this 2014 financial year and this - coupled with the company winning a substantial volume of work here and in Australia - was an indication of improvement.

"We have a forward order book of $3.7 billion. We're very pleased with that and it positions us well for this financial year.

"We've been through very rapid growth in Australia in the last five years and we're now in 52 locations there, in every territory or state including Tasmania, where we've been working for the last six months," he said.

The privately owned business issued only a few figures from the June 2012 year but Miller predicted a profitability improvement.

"We have learned some important lessons and taken a number of decisive steps to get back on course, tackle profitability and better protect the wellbeing of every one of our 5500 people who front up for the company every day."

Miller also vowed the business would reduce workplace accidents after four deaths.

Those killed include Kerry Ferris, 52, at Nelson in April after the 12-tonne roller he was driving rolled down a bank into a river bed, security guard Charanpreet Dhaliwal, who was killed in June on his first night working as a security guard on a West Auckland building site, and Richard McGavin, who was crushed between two trucks during a water-cutting operation at Ringarooma, Australia, in May.

Miller said safety was being improved.

"To me personally and the company as a whole, nothing is more important than our renewed focus on health and safety following the tragic deaths of four employees in unrelated workplace incidents which have shocked our company deeply during the past year," he said.

The Christchurch-headquartered business, which is a big player in the earthquake rebuild, now generates 60 per cent of revenue in Australia but Miller said the business "is very much NZ Inc".

Shell is selling out of the business as part of its exit from New Zealand, reducing a 37 per cent holding to 15.3 per cent now and planning to have completed the sale of shares to existing Fulton Hogan owners by December 2014.

Miller said the business had 2230 shareholders which included descendants of the founding families and 1400 shareholders who were staff members.