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Face to face: Nazih Abduk Kader, CCC

CCC’s executive VP of projects tells CW about its growth plans

INTERVIEWS, Projects

In the land of global construction, there are a few companies that, in terms of scale, stand in the top echelons. Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) is possibly the only Middle Eastern firm that can lay claim to being one of them.

The roots of the company sit firmly in the Middle East. It was founded in 1952 by Said Khoury, his brother-in-law Hasib Sabbagh and Kamil ‘Abd al-Rahman. Khoury, 91, remains on the board as president and retains a majority stake in the company. However, it is now run by both his own and Sabbagh’s sons.

Its headquarters have moved from Beirut to Syria, then to London and on to Greece, but it has been an Arabic venture from the start, building its base through major oil & gas contracts in markets such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s.

It also worked on mega-projects of their time such as Jubail Harbour and the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

Today, CCC is the largest construction company in the Middle East and ranks among the top 20 international contractors in the world.

It declared revenues of over $5.4bn in 2012, has offices in more than 50 countries and a workforce of more than 150,000.

But despite its size, Nazih Abdul Kader, executive vice president of operations, says the business – which has always remained in private ownership – benefits from being run like a family firm.

“CCC is known as a family company and it has always maintained a family culture.

“All the employees work as one and the legacy is in the trust the owners put in them; they delegate full authority to them.

“Wherever CCC is present, there will be an area manager in place who is then monitored by the managing office.

“We have very extensive procedures which allow us to control our operations in various areas.”

Sitting in the company’s Qatar office in Doha’s Business District, Kader reflects on the organisation’s activities in the country – at the height of the company’s work on the Qatargas 3 and 4 plants, some 75,000 CCC employees were on site – and his ambitions in what is one of the fastest-growing construction markets in the world.

“We have been very active in Qatar since the 1980s and we continue to be (CCC is currently working in Ras Laffan, constructing the process plant area, including piping fabrication, and the Qatar Petroleum multi-purpose building),” comments Kader.

But the reach of CCC in Qatar extends far beyond the oil and gas market. Infrastrcture is becoming more important, and it has had success with major buildings - one of the company’s first forays into this market was in 2000 when it built the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Doha’s West Bay.

“It was the only high-rise hotel and the tallest building in that area at the time,” says Kader.

“As West Bay has changed and grown, so has the scope of CCC’s construction work in Qatar. We are building a great deal here in Qatar, including the Lusail Multipurpose Hall (see pp. 30-35), which is a very challenging project with tight deadlines,” he adds.

“We are building the middle section of the Doha Expressway, the F-Ring Road, which is a very important job. We are also building the container berths for the Doha New Port Project, and recently completed a package of work for the Hamad International Airport, which included the air traffic control tower, the midfield access tunnels and a number of administration buildings.”

With such a pedigree having already been established in the small Gulf nation, Kader is keen to see CCC successfully bid on more of the country’s most high-profile projects.

“We are very interested in a number of projects here in Qatar,” Kader confirms. “We are hopeful of securing more work on the expressways and the Sharq Crossing is a project that certainly interests us.

“We are also bidding on the sewage treatment plants which are Ashghal projects, and there are a number of petrochemical projects that are coming up that I hope CCC is involved in – there is plenty of work we’d like to be part of.”

There is also great interest in the Dubai market, particularly since the news was announced in November that the Emirate is set to host the World Expo in 2020, which is expected to create a tourism boom.

Indeed, the company has worked on a number of noteworthy projects in the city, including the Dubai Mall, when it worked in a joint venture alongside Dutco Balfour Beatty and Al Ghandi for Emaar Properties.

It is now working for the developer again, as the main contractor on the Dubai Opera House. The 2,000-capacity venue will be the centrepoint of a new cultural district situated in Dubai’s Downtown district, in the shadow of Burj Khalifa.

“It’s a really challenging but exciting project, as it is in a prime location; we’re moving in the right direction. The work has already begun and the concrete works will happen soon. I think the proper form of the opera house will begin to become apparent in 12 months, and it will be finished in around 24 months,” Kader reveals.

“The Dubai market has certainly got moving again,” he continues. “I think it is a market that is approaching another boom especially given the Expo 2020 announcement. That event will bring a renewed infrastructure market as it builds out towards Jebel Ali, for example – Dubai is going to become a bigger place.

“Infrastructure is the next phase. The Metro will have to be extended, the motorways will have to be expanded, and that will bring related drainage works.

“Then there’s all the utilities that will come with that – power, IT, and so on... so it will be a full spectrum of work that will be undertaken. There is a lot going on and a lot of challenges that will have to be overcome, so Dubai is a place that has to be considered when you talk about projects.

“We’d like to be involved in the important infrastructure work.”

The vast expanse that is Saudi Arabia also looms large as a key infrastructure market for CCC. In July 2013, as part of the BACS consortium led by Bechtel and including Almabani General Contractors, and Siemens, it was awarded the contract to design and build lines 1 and 2 of the Riyadh Metro, totalling 63.3 km. The contract is valued at $10.2bn. It is also the most technically sophisticated package, involving around half of the metro’s 84 stations. Moreover, around one-third of the 38km Line One will have to be built underground through the centre of the city.

“The project is going really well, despite it being quite a challenge. We have six engineering centres all over the world where we are training people to work on this job,” Kader says.

“The timeframe for the contract is very challenging, as we need to complete the design in the next eight months. After that will come the tunnel boring machines that have recently arrived in Doha for the Metro project that is also happening there.”

What is clear is that CCC was well-prepared for the growth of infrastructure jobs in the GCC, and further afield, and has been able to secure many of the area’s top projects – often as part of a joint venture.

As well as its part in the Riyadh Metro consortium, the firm announced in March that its joint venture agreement with Haddadin Engineering Contracting had won a contract to build the King Hussain Cancer Centre facility in Jordan. The project is due to finish at the beginning of April 2016.

Moreover, the company teamed up with Arabtec and Drake & Scull last year to form a consortium that had been awarded two major contracts for the Jordanian mixed-use development, Saraya Aqaba Resort, for a combined $629mn.

“Some of the jobs are so big that it’s best to combine companies that have a lot of know-how, experience and expertise,” Kader says.

This is also what it has done for the $3bn Midfield Terminal Building, where its joint venture, once more with Arabtec and with Turkish airports specialist TAV, was appointed to oversee the expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport in June 2012.

“The main idea is to make sure there are synergies between the companies, and that we can share all of our experience. If you’re going to be a company that is working in multiple locations, you have to make partnerships for the larger projects.”

On the proliferation of infrastructure projects, Kader says CCC has been able to adapt, having until recently concentrated its efforts and resources on oil and gas.

“In recent years, there has been a shift in CCC. Five years ago, our oil & gas operations constituted 70% of our revenues, with infrastructure and buildings making up the other 30%. That has changed to the point where it is now a 60/40 split in the favour of infrastructure, and that is a reaction to the market.

“From 2004 to 2010, Qatar had its LNG expansion, Saudi had an oil production upgrade, and Abu Dhabi and Kuwait also improved their production capabilities.

We were also working in Kazakhstan. Since 2010, there has been a slowdown in oil & gas projects, while the infrastructure market has grown over the same period. We were well-prepared because we have always set out to be multi-disciplined.”

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