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Fri 8 Jun 2012 09:27 AM

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Arabtec eyes growth in Libya, Qatar projects

UAE's biggest builder targets energy deals in Libya, World Cup contracts in Qatar

Arabtec eyes growth in Libya, Qatar projects
Ziad Makhzoumi, Arabtecs CFO.

Arabtec Holding, the UAE's biggest builder by market value, is actively looking at oil and gas projects in Libya and hopes to win contracts in Qatar as the Gulf state prepares to host the soccer World Cup in 2020, the company's chief financial officer has said.

"Libya is a medium-term market for us on the residential side, but immediate for oil and gas. Our subsidiary Target Engineering is already looking at some projects in the sector," Ziad Makhzoumi told Reuters.

"Libya needs to rehabilitate its oil and gas facilities to start production again. We're looking at contracts in selected areas."

Arabtec's entry into the North African market comes as foreign companies are gradually returning to Libya despite concerns over security and the possibility that the new authorities will review contracts signed during the rule of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Oil major BP announced last week that it would be resuming exploration work on its concessions in Libya, home to Africa's largest proven oil reserves. Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach also said it will resume exploratory drilling in the country.

Arabtec is also setting logistics and joint ventures in place in preparation to bid for Qatar's planned $100bn infrastructure projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Makhzoumi said.

"We have two major projects in Qatar and we're bidding for some more," he said. "We're ready to bid for almost every possible sector."

Goldman Sachs estimates that Qatar will spend about $65bn to build stadiums, roads, bridges, apartments and hotels in time for the World Cup.

Arabtec is 20.8 percent owned by Abu Dhabi fund Aabar Investments, which owns stakes in high-profile names such as German carmaker Daimler and commodities trader Glencore and has increased its Arabtec stake from 5.3 percent since March.

Aabar's increased stake will have a positive impact on Arabtec's operations and will translate into more contracts, Makhzoumi said: "It is in their interest, as Aabar, that we grow in the business. I can only see positive results out of that (stake increase)."

Arabtec, which more than tripled its first-quarter net profits to AED84.1m ($22.90m), expects to sign the $3bn Abu Dhabi airport expansion project contract this month, the chief financial officer said.

"It's all done, all agreed and just a matter of finalising paperwork," Makhzoumi told Reuters.

Last month the Abu Dhabi government identified an Arabtec consortium, including Turkey's TAV Insaat and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company, as the preferred bidder.

"Our share is about one third of the contract, which will push our backlog to around 17 billion dirhams from the current 14 billion dirhams," Makhzoumi said.

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