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Lucky at cricket, unlucky on site

2006 REVIEW

IT'S A good time to be an Australian in London at the moment.

Gloating Aussies have been queuing up to dish it out after their cricketers finally remembered how to play the game and handed the Poms a hammering 18 months after they lost the Ashes.

And after having to enduring an equally torrid time, Multiplex was finally able to drag out some good news on its Wembley stadium contract.

All those headlines about mind-boggling losses, legal battles and the apocalyptic fear that the stadium might not even be ready for next year's FA Cup Final melted away when the firm and its client reached an agreement which said, in layman's terms, let's stop messing about, let's call off the legal eagles, finish the bloody stadium, open it and we can both move on.

It capped a better year for the Aussie builder having won the most talked about construction legal scrap in years when a judge ruled its former steelwork subcontractor CBUK had broken the law when it left the job in August 2004.

But nonetheless Wembley has cost the firm an awful lot, even besides those staggering losses of close to £200 million. It has to repair a reputation that has been battered from pillar to post and for the wider public at least culminated in the announcement in February that this year's FA Cup Final was once again being played at Cardiff.

The hammering it has taken on Wembley has seen the firm downscale its UK construction operation so much that its managing director Martin Tidd and other senior figures quit. That wasn't the plan when firm came into the UK at the turn of the decade.

Quietly going about its business has been another Aussie firm, Westfield - the developer behind the White City retail scheme in London.

But, after it took over building work from, yes, Multiplex in the summer, the firm has already been hit by a series of spats with subbies on the job and allegations that the job is behind schedule and over budget. Sound familiar?