Arabtec eyes up Qatar and Libya opportunities

UAE firm chases oil and gas, infrastructure and residential projects

Arabtec hopes to benefit from Qatar's planned $65bn spend on projects, such as this stadium, for the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Arabtec hopes to benefit from Qatar's planned $65bn spend on projects, such as this stadium, for the 2022 FIFA World Cup

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 country prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to the company’s chief financial officer.

“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,” he stated.

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 preparing logistics and joint ventures for bids on Qatar’s planned $100bn (AED 367.3bn) 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,” he added.

Goldman Sachs estimates that Qatar will spend about $65 billion (AED 238.7bn) to build stadiums, roads, bridges, apartments and hotels in time for the World Cup.

Arabtec is 20.8% 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% 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 $22.9m (AED 84.1 million), expects to sign the $3billion (AED 11bn) 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 $4.6bn (AED 17bn) from the current $3.8bn (AED 14bn),” Makhzoumi said.

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