5 Minutes with Simon Moon, Atkins
Oil price variations are an opportunity to "rationalise", chief executive officer for Atkins' Middle East operations, Simon Moon, tells Construction Week
1. How would you rate Atkins’ performance during the first quarter of 2015?
We’ve stayed focused over the last few years in terms of geography and services; so we’re actively involved in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and in three main sectors, which are property, rail and infrastructure. We won a number of long-term projects because we stayed true to that approach. Projects like Riyadh Metro and the Red and Gold Metro Lines in Doha are some we are particularly proud of.
2. What are your key markets in the region for the future?
It makes sense to be cautiously optimistic about markets. Transportation is going to be a massive growth sector for Atkins, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia. Dubai is going to make for an interesting property market. Qatar will be strong next year from a design and engineering perspective.
3. Was it a conscious strategy on Atkins’ part to spread its resources in the region as it did?
Strategy is, I believe, a collision of luck and planning. For Atkins, I think, it all started with Dubai Metro, where we were involved not by plan, but because we were invited to participate in the project. We brought in our expertise from across the global group in terms of employees with metro capabilities, especially from Hong Kong. We held back on our capacities when metros weren’t being designed in the region for a couple of years, but we knew it’d come back; so our track record from Dubai and Hong Kong helped us when we looked towards metro projects in Mecca, Riyadh, and Doha. It was a strategic plan that started as a big opportunity.
4. What is your take on Atkins’ energy operations? Will current oil price variations impact them?
We’ve been involved in the Middle East’s energy business for a number of years now. We work in the oil & gas sector with BP in Oman, Saudi Aramco in the Kingdom, and Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation in Abu Dhabi. It’s obviously a huge growth area for the company. I think companies should take the opportunity to rationalise when oil is priced low. Oil & gas are easier to procure in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world, so it makes sense for both, private sector firms and governments to carry out diversification programmes for the economy. Renewable energy is understandably an upcoming field in this regard, particularly wind and solar. We predict the region will continue to grow in both, the traditional and renewable energy sector.
5. Have regional labour shortages impact Atkins’ work?
Atkins follows a delivery model wherein we distribute our workforce across different regional and global markets. This helps us for two reasons – firstly, it means we don’t need to be too dependent on too many people in the region, especially in terms of market changes and the chance that we might have to move them back. More importantly, though, distributing our workforce allows us to develop our technical centres of excellence around the world, such as in the UK, Hong Kong, and our international centre in India. Through these centres, we ensure our employees can be moved to any relevant project they are needed on, anywhere in the world.