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Industry players have their say on concrete market

The healthier economic outlook is benefiting firms involved in infrastructure and structural work and the supply of concrete admixtures and chemicals

ANALYSIS, Materials, Concrete

With about $180bn of contracts for new construction projects predicted to be awarded throughout the Gulf states this year, the largest amount for six years, despite falling oil prices, demand for concrete has in turn been solidified.

Last year, $156bn of projects were awarded in the GCC, largely by governments and state-backed companies, as most Gulf countries recovered strongly from the global financial crisis and spent on major infrastructure projects designed to help their economies diversify beyond oil, stated Meed Projects. At the peak of the boom in 2008, GCC contracts totalled about $200bn.

The healthier economic outlook is benefiting firms involved in infrastructure and structural work and the supply of concrete admixtures and chemicals, whose products and services are now being specified by clients.

Dubai-headquartered WME Consultants, which specialises in MEP, structural and infrastructure services, said it is currently working on 13 GCC projects including Reem Mall and Saadiyat Beach Villas phase two in Abu Dhabi, Opera Grand residential tower and The Address Residence Fountain Views in Dubai’s Downtown and Opera Districts, Nakheel Mall on the Palm Jumeirah and Bloom Tower in Dubai Marina.

Managing director Peyman Mohajer said: “Due to Expo 2020 in Dubai, the market has boomed with plenty of interesting developments around and has resulted in aggressive delivery deadlines, though WME has taken it as a challenge and is always targeting for continuous improvements in quality and productivity.”

He said that WME appeals to clients by offering a ‘one stop consultancy’ from concept design through to project completion including supervision and Architect of Record.

“Improving quality of the deliverables with more innovation and technology, for example using Revit/BIM technology in designs in projects so there is no clashes during construction stage and integrate seamless design,” he explained.

Meanwhile, BASF Construction Chemicals has been manufacturing concrete admixtures in the UAE since 1979. David Bowerman, regional business segment manager, admixture systems and cement additives, said that all GCC countries are showing steady growth, however Qatar is achieving the biggest year-on-year gains for the firm.

“Readymix is a primary segment but manufactured concrete products (MCP) are also showing good signs of recovery;” he added.

Bowerman pointed out that the Middle East climate makes delivering and placing concrete challenging but that its admixtures are formulated for use with locally available material to cope with the conditions.

“Many of the projects are reaching record heights and BASF Construction Chemicals has unique polymers to improve concrete rheology allowing faster and higher pumping with less wear-and-tear on equipment and quicker turn-around of truck mixers,” he said.

“Our in-house polymers allow excellent workability retention to allow the readymix company to get the concrete to site within specification but once placed gain strength quickly to benefit the contractor and the client with fast construction.”

Bowerman said that its concrete products are being used in Qatar on the Doha Metro project, Hamad International Airport and Dukhan Highway; in the UAE at Mafraq Hospital, Al Ain Hospital, Jebel Ali Port extension; and in Bahrain at the Four Seasons and the US Navy accommodation projects.

Another firm with a strong foothold in the construction chemicals market is the MCT Group of Companies, which was founded in 1982 in Dubai by HE Sheikh Saeed Mohammad bin Hasher Al Maktoum and Peter Gaskin.

Comprising of six divisions, its business activities are diversified into corrosion protection, repair and maintenance, manufacture and distribution of construction chemicals, dry mix mortars, pipeline protection and rehabilitation and property maintenance.

Alan Gaskin, Group business development manager, said the firm’s products are being used on a wide array of GCC projects including Abu Dhabi’s Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal, Etihad Rail, Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, Dubai Water Canal, Pearl Jumeirah, Bluewaters Island and Mohammed Bin Rashid City.

Gasikin said that finding quality personnel to represent the ethos and values of the firm was one of the main challenges of operating in the region.

“As a solution provider and direct selling operation, quality people are paramount to our business. Our product will always be sold by people and bought by people no matter how advanced technology becomes,” he explained.

“We strongly believe in building strong relationships with clients based on trust and confidence in our product and solution offered to their specific needs. In this respect finding quality people continues to be a massive challenge, especially sales people.” He noted that the UAE will remain MCT’s biggest GCC market.

“With two factories and our group research and development centre located in Dubai we have the capability to support this market better than any other, and with the news of a greater number of major projects being released the UAE will continue to provide us with our biggest opportunity,” he said.

Like Mohajer, Gaskin believes upcoming showpieces such as Dubai Expo 2020 and the Qatar World Cup in 2022 plus major projects releases has ignited optimism in the region. But he sounds a word of warning.

“We are also cautious with our optimism and will continue to work hard on establishing our repair and maintenance business which is not subject to the pitfalls of new project work,” he said. “We have also recently opened an office in Oman as we see this as an important growth area both in infrastructure and oil and gas projects.”

Meanwhile, concrete admixture supplier Grace Construction said two of its most recent orders have been to supply fibre modified screed to Abu Dhabi’s Louvre Museum and lightweight mortar fill to the recent fast-track renovation of runways at Dubai International Airport.

Laith Haboubi, commercial director Middle East, said one of the keys to surviving and thriving in the market was to be able to offer clients professional technical support.

“The challenges remain with pressure on pricing and payment terms, but in our view technical support and reliability are still highly sought after by most of the major players in the concrete industry,” he said.

Rawlplug, a manufacturer of specialist anchoring and fixing systems, is supplying Hamed International Airport in Doha, the extension of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Habtoor City in Dubai and Abu Dhabi's Louvre Museum and Presidential Palace.

Middle East managing director Mazen Malas said: “We believe in the importance of sustainability, hence we are increasing our range of products for ‘green buldings’, cladding systems for natural stone and aluminium cladding, and eco-friendly products for the enclosure of fire traps.”

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