Arabtec to focus on regional expansion

The construction giant’s CEO talks emerging markets, Saudi growth and getting set up in a new country.
Arabtec to focus on regional expansion
Thomas Barry said his company would be focusing on geographical expansion during 2011.
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Sat 06 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

The CEO of Arabtec Construction, Thomas Barry, said his company would be focusing on geographical expansion during 2011.

Commenting during a panel discussion at the Construction Week Conference, the head of the GCC construction giant said that Saudi Arabia would be the firm’s main priority, due to the high demand for infrastructure and huge spending plans. He added however, that the company would continue to look at new projects elsewhere, including Syria, Egypt, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

“At Arabtec, we will continue to focus on Abu Dhabi, as there are still a lot of projects there, “ he said. “But our major focus will be Saudi Arabia. They’ll be spending around $400 billion over the next few years to improve residential areas, hospitals, schools and railways.”

“The Egypt and Syrian markets will also be important for us. There are some big projects in Damascus. In Egypt they tend to carry out some large projects, so those will be big targets for us as well.”

Barry also mentioned how Qatar would continue to be of interest, especially if the country’s World Cup bid was successful.

“We feel quite upbeat about Qatar, it's certainly not like Dubai two years ago, but it is steady.”

Speaking about the company’s move into Saudi Arabia, Barry admitted that so far it is not been easy.

“Working in Saudi, getting set up there and getting established, was very difficult, more difficult than we first anticipated,” he said.

“Of course there are drawbacks to working in Saudi, but ultimately when you get there, there are a lot of opportunities. It is going to be a very important market for many companies from the UAE.”

Syria, another key market for Arabtec, was described as “much easier”. In February, the company won its second project in the country, which has previously witnessed low levels of private investment, but is currently on track for a huge development programme.

The most recent Arabtec win in Syria is a new five-star hotel, located on the Damascus – Beirut highway, and costing about $67 million to build.

Arabtec is also active in Egypt, where last month, the firm won a contract to build the AED195 million Hanging Gardens development, covering 2.2 million m2.

Today, executives are also bidding for several other projects, including the Marissa project for Emaar, three Four Seasons hotels and possibly the Grand Egyptian Museum – under prequalification.

No other markets were mentioned by Barry, though he suggested that none would be ruled out. “We have been approached by Korea recently, but we tend to take each opportunity as it comes,” he said.

Barry made it clear Arabtec was looking forward to more presence in the region. “We are certainly optimistic about the future,” he said.

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