Superior client service and a commitment to safety and the environment have secured a place for Leighton Asia among the three finalists for this year's Business Excellence Award. Australia's number one construction company in Asia weathered the tough economic conditions last year and emerged with a record level of work in progress, according to managing director John Faulkner. 'We had an increase in revenue and our work in hand reached a record of in excess of $3 billion,' he said. 'Our performance was quite excellent given the state of the economy.' Leighton Asia won about $3.5 billion in new work during the year and all signs point to another robust financial performance in the current financial year. Mr Faulkner said: 'We are probably about 50 per cent up.' As well as its financial performance, Leighton Asia has excelled in environmental awareness. This year it became one of the few construction companies to receive ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system, which covers issues such as run-off from work sites. It is an ongoing commitment, according to Mr Faulkner. In terms of fulfilling the role of 'a good Australian' - another criteria for selecting finalists for the Business Excellence Award - about 130 of the company's 800 staff are Australian. Leighton Asia frequently brings in other Australian companies to help with particular projects. 'In the last 12 months we have assisted at least eight Australian companies in Hong Kong, bringing new expertise, technologies and efficiencies to the market place,' Mr Faulkner said. For example, a Leighton/Rail Services Australia joint venture recently won the $750 million track-laying contract for the KCRC's West Rail project. 'We encouraged RSA to come here and work with us. It is the first time we have won a track-laying job here in Hong Kong,' he said. Another example is Australian directional drilling specialist company A.J Lucas which has been subcontracted by Leighton to drill a 1.4- kilometre undersea hole for a fresh water pipeline across the Ma Wan channel. The $147 million job demands pinpoint accuracy to ensure the connection points are linked properly. Another Australian company, Cantilever, a specialist in jump-form work is helping Leighton speed up its housing construction. At Phase 4 of Tsz Oi Estate in Tsz Wan Shan, Kowloon, the technique allowed a floor to be built every four days. The floor-to-floor cycle previously took six days. 'It was a system we developed and we selected Cantilever to provide the equipment.' Leighton also works extensively in Hong Kong with many other well-known Australian companies, including Boral, BHP and Pioneer. Mr Faulkner said Leighton had adjusted to the economic downturn in Hong Kong by seeking work outside its traditional areas of expertise. 'We had never been in the track-laying business before teaming up with RSA (on the West Rail project). With A.J Lucas, this is the first time that directional drilling has been done on such a large scale. I think this is the longest directional drilling hole in the world. So we have taken the risk and gone out and looked for new product lines,' Mr Faulkner said.