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Tue 25 Feb 2014 03:13 PM

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Hill flags return to Libya despite $57m debt

US construction firm says will work in Libya in 'next two to three months'

Hill flags return to Libya despite $57m debt
GCC construction, Middle East construction

US construction management firm Hill International has flagged a return to the troubled Middle East nation of Libya “in the next two to three months” despite being owed most of a $60m invoice for work in the country.

The company finally received a cash payment in Q3 from the Organisation for Development of Administrative Centres (ODAC) comprising 3 million Libyan dinars ($2.4m) to Hill and 800,000 Libyan dinars ($700,000) to tax authorities on Hill’s behalf for its work under the then-government in 2011.

However, with the Libyan Dinar currently unable to be converted to foreign currency, it remained sitting in Hill’s bank account in Libya.

“We’ve been patient and I think that patience has been rewarded,” Hill president and chief operating officer David Richter told Arabian Business in a wide-ranging interview to be published on Sunday.

“We’ve been begun to collect money… we’re in the process of negotiating further payments and a return to work, a new contract. We expect that this is the year that we will see most if not all of our money.”

Hill CEO and founder Irvin Richter said despite evacuating 225 people from Libya when the Spring uprisings began in 2011, the company had kept Libyan and some Iraqi staff, who offered to stay, on the payroll in anticipation for when work will resume “in the next two to three months” on projects such as the University of Tripoli and the reconstruction effort.

“You’re dealing with a country that has political instability. You want to get those people off the street – how do you get them off the street? You get them back to work. So, as they get back to work there’ll be less instability, there’ll be less protesting on the streets,” he said.

In Egypt, another Middle Eastern state marred by recent troubles, Irvin Richter said Hill’s work included the Grand Egyptian Museum, and it continues to be a good market. Syria, on the other hand, was “too risky and dangerous”.

However, David Richter said as Qatar geared up for the World Cup, its current work on residential and commercial towers and hotels, the Doha metro green line and the National Museum of Qatar would only intensify.

“They have money, they’re smart, they know how to spend it and we like it in Qatar, people are willing to go,” Irvin Richter added. “There’s no sense in working to get a project when you can’t staff it or you staff it with secondary skills – we don’t want to do that, that’s the way to lose your reputation quickly.”

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