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Face to face: Bulent Batukan, Anel MEP

Why the contractor has been able to hit such heady heights of late

Batukan says the UAE is now a major target for Anel.
Batukan says the UAE is now a major target for Anel.
Anel has become the MEP contractor of choice on the Hamad International Airport project in Doha.
Anel has become the MEP contractor of choice on the Hamad International Airport project in Doha.
Anel has worked on nine airports prior to Midfield Terminal, one of them being Cairo International in Egypt.
Anel has worked on nine airports prior to Midfield Terminal, one of them being Cairo International in Egypt.

 

As it gets to work on the latest of its GCC airport project awards in Abu Dhabi, Anel MEP’s executive board member Bülent Batukan and three of its GCC team explain why the contractor has been able to hit such heady heights of late

In November last year, Anel MEP celebrated the latest of its GCC airport project awards with a $287m (AED: 1.1bn) contract for the electrical works on the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal, set for completion in Q3 of 2017.

While the sprawling aviation project is in its early stages, currently undergoing enabling works, Anel is already fully set up on site with an office in which the company’s executive board member Bülent Batukan settles down to narrate the story of the MEP contractor’s GCC ascent.

Flanked by three of the company’s GCC team (Midfield Terminal project manager Zafer Genc, Qatar country manager Tolga Tutum, and MEP project manager Mustafa Özgür Ünal), Batukan says that the company is now an undisputed regional leader in airport MEP projects.

“We are very strong in the airport business; this is our tenth international airport. In the UAE, where we established a company about four years ago, we have focussed mainly on this airport [Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal].

But last year we also participated in the Concourse 4 tender at Dubai International Airport following a request from Dubai Civil Aviation. They wanted us with our previous experience to be among the bidders, but we were more expensive compared with the competition.”

While others might seek to play down such a rejection, Batukan is unapologetic about his company’s pricing strategy and says that Anel’s insistence on quality in every facet of its operations occasionally places them at the higher end of a bidding battle, with predictable results.

“Being expensive is a marginal issue,” he says. “Airports are one of the mission critical sites which have to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are fault-tolerance sites and you have to have full redundancy with the best material and the best workmanship.

You cannot sacrifice the quality, whether you are the contractor, sub-contractor or client. But there are always ways to make the project cheaper such as the quality of manpower you are using. We use high-quality labour from certain countries that provides greater efficiency, but sometimes that preference makes our price higher.”

Notwithstanding this penchant for a high-price, Anel has still managed to become the MEP contractor of choice on the Hamad International Airport (formerly New Doha International Airport) in Qatar, where it established its GCC base in 2006.

Winning its first package on the airport in 2007 valued at $67m (QAR: 243.9m), the company has gone on to win a total of around $450m (QAR: 1.6bn) worth of work on the project and is currently executing the CP18 and CP99 packages there, which will keep it busy until March 2014.

However, more packages are on the horizon and, as the airport unfolds its expansion plans in the run-up to 2022, Anel is confident that it can continue to play a crucial role in its delivery.

Elsewhere, the contractor also has its eye on the upcoming Kuwait International Airport project, which Batukan expects to be put out to tender in the next two to three quarters. He foresees the airport offering a similar amount of work to that of Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal as it has a total budget of $4bn (KWD: 1.1bn).

Unsurprisingly, the Turkish-based contractor is also targetting work on the huge airport project planned for Istanbul which is set to cost around $13.4bn (€10bn) and have an initial capacity of 90 million passengers per year.

Given this intent focus on the aviation sector, one would be forgiven for thinking that Anel has little interest in anything else. While this is far from the truth, it does however have a discriminatory approach to the GCC market which limits the scope of projects it is willing to tackle.

Whereas in its homeland of Turkey “working for the government means you have to be involved in politics, which we don’t want to be,” Anel’s approach to this region is markedly different.

“In the GCC we trust government projects – they are serious projects,” says Batukan. “We kept ourselves away from private sector developed projects or soft projects in the GCC. Once the crisis hit, those were the projects that were mainly affected. None of the government projects that we were involved in were hit.

We are conservative, so whom we are working with is important. Governments don’t do fantasy projects; an airport is not a fantasy project. Look at what happened in Dubai with some of the manmade islands – they were never developed,” he adds.

Another key facet of Anel’s approach to the GCC beyond this private sector stipulation is the scale of projects on which the company is willing to commit. ”If you build up your structure for large projects, then it’s easy for you to adapt to the market,” Batukan explains.

“If you deal in small projects, these projects start to eat you up and you can’t concentrate on the bigger projects. I’m not talking in terms of money, but resources. Our culture is to focus on the larger projects and if you are successful on these then you are able to tackle anything.”

With these two criteria limiting the range of potential projects for Anel in the GCC, what other projects might the contractor have in mind other than airports? Having built three solar power stations in Bulgaria, solar power projects in the GCC are on the company’s radar, but it is the bounty of Qatar’s metro and stadium projects that Batukan says attracts Anel the most.

It has experience in both, with work on a 1.1km rail tunnel under the Bosphorus in Istanbul ticking the metro box, while a reference from the Shaktar Donetsk football stadium in Ukraine and ongoing work on a 70,000 seater air conditioned stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, means it is no stranger to the big arena occasion either.

If these targets are achieved, Anel will undoubtedly build on its robust performance over the last year. Fed by an international/domestic workload split of 75-80%/20-25%, the company has operated around the $200m turnover mark in recent years.

However, 2012 saw $417m worth of contracts signed and a backlog of $570m attained. The target, says Batukan, is to sustain the company at a turnover level of $400m plus, with a backlog of $500m plus. In Q1 of 2013, Anel had already secured approximately $200m worth of contracts.

For Batukan, the UAE will be central to sustaining such ambitious top line levels. “We will be strong in the UAE,” he says. “Some may say we’ve missed out over the last ten years in the UAE, but we don’t sit and cry about it. There is lots of work to come.

We have the perspective of waiting two to three years for business to generate here. This project [Abu Dhabi Airport Midfield Terminal] will be sufficient to carry us in the UAE during that time. We will generate business here when the time is right. There will be interesting projects here; it will not finish.”

Airport Expert
It is hard to imagine that there are many engineers in the GCC MEP industry as experienced in airport projects as Zafer Genc, Anel’s project manager at Abu Dhabi Airport Midfield Terminal.

Fresh from completing work and registering 17 million man hours without a lost-time injury on the Hamad International Airport in Qatar, Genc is now tackling his fifth airport since joining Anel in 1998.

He will oversee the installation of the Midfield Terminal’s entire electrical project, including medium voltage, light voltage and extra light voltage works, and says the demands of an electrical project on an airport are quite distinct from any other type of job.

“Other projects usually have multi-storeys, but airports have fewer storeys with a wider surface,” says Genc. “Due to this, there has to be more substations. The power network is more spacious so there has to be more substations distributed around the building. There are also special systems related to an airport like talking guidance systems or airfield lighting.

“The electrical systems at an airport are also the most critical. Controlling and monitoring is very important at an airport. If the power goes down, it will be a mess,” he adds.

Qatar Player
Tolga Tutum, Anel’s Qatar country manager, is overseeing operations in the GCC state which has proved the most fruitful for the company thus far.

Having joined the company in 2005, Tutum worked on Cairo International Airport’s Terminal 3 project and for a period at the company’s base in Istanbul before being deployed to his current state of residence in 2009.

Taking the role of project coordinator at the Qatar National Convention Centre project on arrival, Tutum proved his worth with the Centre’s delivery in 2011. Work on the extra light voltage (ELV) portion of Hamad Medical City soon followed, during which Tutum was appointed country manager for Anel and charged with building on the company’s already impressive presence in the Qatari market.

“At the moment we still have some small packages on Qatar National Convention Centre, while Hamad Medical City is ongoing alongside our remaining work on Hamad International Airport,” says Tutum.

“On top of this, about a month ago, we were awarded the MEP works on Qatar Foundation Research and Development Complex Phase 1. We are also developing the quotations for tenders on other projects for further business in Qatar. We are mainly focussing on large-scale jobs but, in the meantime, until the metro and stadium projects are awarded, medium-scale jobs are welcome as well,” he adds.

Man with a plan
Key to Anel’s work on the Hamad International Airport and its hopes of winning further contracts there is Mustafa Özgür Ünal, MEP project manager.

Although having worked on five previous aviation projects, Hamad International was Ünal’s first airport for Anel after he joined in 2006. He has since held the roles of construction manager and deputy project manager at the site before reaching his current post.

While he is now busy working on the CP18, 99, 110, and 111 packages of the project, as well as facility management jobs as part as the CP51 package, he is also leading Anel’s campaign to remain the MEP contractor of choice on the job.

“One of our main targets at the airport is to ensure we win the remaining packages scheduled up until 2022,” says Ünal.

“There are set to be extensions to Concourses D and E, an extension to the existing terminal for Qatar Airways flights, and the construction of a new terminal for other airways. As Anel we have the most experience on this project, as well as our experience on other airport projects. One of my given targets is therefore to help secure as much work on the airport as possible in the coming years,” he adds.

Facts:
- 2006 Year Anel entered the GCC market
- $287m Value of Midfield Terminal electrical contract
- $417m Value of contracts signed in 2012

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