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Major Aussie construction firm on brink of collapse after bungled high rise

An Australian building giant — Probuild — is on the verge of a shocking collapse after a disastrous high-rise project dragged it into massive debt.

The grim news broke on Wednesday evening tradies called off worksites across the country.

Workers were seen pulling equipment and tools from Cbus Property’s 443 Queen St project in Brisbane, with construction to cease by the end of Wednesday, The Australian reported.

Probuild raked in $1.3billion in revenue and made $4million profit last year, but the 443 Queen St project which involved high-quality apartments has haemorrhaged as much as $120million.

The 443 Queen Street development reportedly haemorrhaged as much as $120million.
Camera IconThe 443 Queen Street development reportedly haemorrhaged as much as $120million. Credit: Supplied

The property features 264 luxury residential apartments, but with delays and technical issues is already well behind its late-2021 completion date.

Originally heralded as Brisbane’s first premium subtropical residential tower, with views across the city, the building’s future now hangs in the balance.

Workers were told to stop work on the landmark 443 Queen Street development, amid reports construction company, Probuild faced liquidation.
Camera IconWorkers were told to stop work on the landmark 443 Queen Street development, amid reports construction company, Probuild faced liquidation. Credit: Supplied

The riverfront complex has cost the company’s Queensland arm, PCA QLD, more than $28million, with sources estimating it could be up to $120million.

Probuild Constructions (Aust) reportedly injected $15million into the company last year as part of a recapitalisation to combat the Queensland division’s losses.

“We were just told to pick our tools up because Probuild were pulling the pin on all their projects across Australia,” one worker at the site told The Australian.

Another said workers had been left hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket due to unpaid bills.

“It is going to run into the millions, what tradies are owed,” they said.

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Camera IconWorkers were told to down tools on Probuild sites across the country. Zak Simmonds Credit: News Corp Australia

The Melbourne-based firm is one of the largest construction companies in Australia, reporting revenue of $1.3bn last year.

The firm is behind several iconic recent builds, including the Melbourne Convention Centre and new Victorian Police headquarters, as well as Sydney’s new glass “IMAX” building in Darling Harbour.

However, lengthy delays have caused some projects to go well beyond budget and despite a pandemic-driven construction boom, the company turned a profit of just $4 million.

While Probuild directly employs just over 500 staff, there are fears for the impact on thousands more working as subcontractors.

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Camera IconWorkers leave the Probuild worksite on 443 Queen Street, Brisbane. Zak Simmonds Credit: News Corp Australia

The company is involved in a range of office, residential and other projects around the country, primarily in Melbourne.

Projects include the 65-storey residential UNO building in Melbourne scheduled for completion next year, as well as new campus buildings at Victoria and Curtin Universities.

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Camera IconThere are fears for the futures of hundreds of staff directly employed by the company, as well as potentially thousands of subcontractors. Zak Simmonds Credit: News Corp Australia

It was also engaged in developing a new headquarters and research facility for biotech giant, CSL.

According to the company’s website it has delivered over 10,000 apartments in the last five years and has with more than 300,000 square metres of commercial office space currently under construction.

It was involved in all stages of redeveloping the iconic Chadstone Shopping Centre since 1988, including the award-winning West Mall redevelopment, which completed the creation of two levels of retail tenancies throughout the centre.

More recently, Probuild delivered a 10-level office tower at the centre, with basement car parking and major luxury retail extensions.

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Camera IconTradies were blindsided by the sudden directive to stop work on major projects. Zak Simmonds Credit: News Corp Australia

A takeover bid by state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation fell through last year over concerns the federal government would intervene on national security grounds, according to The Australian.

At the time, a South African parent company to the Chinese firm, WBHO, said it remained “optimistic about the fundamentals of Probuild and its prospects in the Australian market.”

So far Probuild and reported liquidator, Deloitte have refused to comment.

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