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2016 Construction Week Power 100: 1-10

Construction Week's annual ranking of the most influential people in the Middle East's construction industry

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1. Yu Tao, President and CEO, CSCEC ME

Topping Construction Week’s 2016 Power 100 is last year’s runner up, Yu Tao. As president and chief executive officer of China State Construction Engineering Corporation Middle East (CSCEC ME), Tao has witnesses a plethora of deliveries and contract wins over the past 12 months.

The Chinese contracting giant’s Middle East division, which boasts a workforce in excess of 10,000, achieved revenues of more than $650m in 2015, representing a net profit of 2%. This year, Tao and his team expect revenues of $870m.

Over the past year, CSCEC ME has led construction at a number of high-profile GCC projects, with particular emphasis on the UAE. Most recently, it completed works at Dubai’s Al Hikma Tower, and Abu Dhabi’s City of Lights, Al Shamkha, and Al Falah Interchange developments.

This year, Tao and his colleagues will continue to build Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai, Hameni Tower, Akoya, and Al Wasl Interchange.

In neighbouring Abu Dhabi, the contractor is working in conjunction with an array of construction outfits to build Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC). CSCEC ME was appointed sub-contractor for the fabrication and erection of the 45,000-tonne central steel structure at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new terminal. It is also acting as sub-contractor for mechanical, electrical, and engineering (MEP) works at the site.

Outside of the UAE, Tao’s team has made significant progress in Kuwait. CSCEC ME is working as the main contractor for Sabah Al-Salem Kuwait University City’s academic support facilities (ACSF) – a project divided into six main packages, which will include 27 buildings spread across a built-up area of approximately 21.3ha.

At a strategic level, Tao foresees a long-term upside to the lacklustre oil price that has been causing short-term problems for the GCC’s construction community.

“The falling oil price may enhance government participation in public-private partnership (PPP) projects,” he told CW. “Our parent company has many years of experience constructing overseas PPP megaprojects.”

2. Kez Taylor, CEO, ALEC

Owing to another solid year at the helm of ALEC, chief executive officer Kez Taylor has climbed four places from his 2015 position on the Power 100.

During its most recent financial year, profit accounted for 4.3% of ALEC’s annual turnover. Encouragingly, this was up on the figure of 3.6% achieved during the 2014 financial year. Moreover, Taylor and his colleagues expect revenues to pass the $1bn-mark in 2016.

ALEC’s solid financials have been driven by a series of high-profile completions, both in the Emirates and the wider Middle East. Between June 2015 and May 2016, it completed two major airport projects in the UAE: Dubai International Airport’s Concourse D, which boasts a built-up area of 15ha; and Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3, which has added more than 1.7ha to accommodate Airbus A380 aircraft landing in the capital.

Also in the UAE, ALEC Fitout is due to hand over the architectural fit-out package for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (ADNOC) new corporate headquarters – a project that included the interior finishes of 54 office floors across an area of 98,000 sqm.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Oman, Taylor and his colleagues completed Jabal Akhdar Anantara Hotel Resort & Spa, a 115-key, five-star hotel situated in the sultanate’s Al Hajar Mountains, which occupies an area of 2.3ha.

During the coming year, ALEC will continue to support expansion works at a number of GCC airports, as well as a selection of residential, commercial, and hospitality-related developments.

At present, the contractor boasts a 13,000-plus workforce, of which 1,420 are qualified engineers. ALEC has increased its overall number of employees by approximately 40% since 2014 and, according to Taylor, this growth has been qualitative as well as quantitative.

“We have invested heavily in the time that all members of ALEC’s senior management spend mentoring and coaching employees,” he told CW. “All of our human development programmes are in-house led, and we are very proud of our Leadership Development Programme.”

3. Khaled Musaed El Seif , Chairman, El Seif Engineering Contracting

Khaled Musaed El Seif, chairman of eponymous El Seif Engineering Contracting, retains the number-three spot in Construction Week’s 2016 Power 100.

The kingdom-based construction giant is also the highest-ranking Saudi Arabian on this year’s list.

El Seif has enjoyed a solid year, both in Saudi Arabia and across the wider Middle East. While many of his competitors have floundered amid lacklustre oil prices, his company has succeeded in maintaining – and growing – a healthy project portfolio.

The firm has acted as main contractor on a broad range of projects in the kingdom, including Haramain High-Speed Rail Project passenger stations in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), the five-star Millennium Hotel in Ha’il, a large-scale sports hall and athletics stadium in Jeddah, and underpasses, travelators, tunnels, and land bridges in King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD).

El Seif is also executing a selection of architectural and infrastructure projects, both domestically and internationally. During the coming 12 months, the firm will continue to support construction activities on kingdom-based projects including Samba Headquarters Tower in KAFD and another Millennium Hotel in Tabuk, not to mention 10 residential cities in the Southern Region.

In the neighbouring UAE, El Seif will have involvement in Dubai’s Entisar Tower, and Meydan Heights Residential Development, which will feature 2,200 villas.

The firm also enjoys strong ties with Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh. Historic projects include Kingdom Tower, and infrastructure and utilities works at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University – a contract that was worth over $2.13bn (SAR8bn).

At present, the company boasts a regional workforce of approximately 40,000 construction professionals, and El Seif told CW that his firm has worked hard to diversify its business activities, with fresh inroads in fields such as commercial and industrial investment, precast production, security, power generation, insurance, and facilities management (FM).

4. Ghassan Merehbi, Chairman and founder, Arabian Construction Company

Almost half a century has passed since Ghassan Merehbi founded Arabian Construction Company (ACC). During this period, the chairman has watched his company grow from strength to strength, with operations across the length and breadth of the GCC and wider Levant.

In 2015, ACC achieved revenues of approximately $1.27bn. This year, Merehbi expects this figure to hit $1.4bn. The value of the contractor’s total awarded contracts stands at around $6bn. It also boasts a backlog in the region of $3.1bn.

Over the past 12 months, ACC has completed a variety of major projects as main contractor, primarily in the UAE. This year alone, Merehbi’s team will hand over The Address Residence Sky View, The Address Residence Fountain View, and Volante Tower in Dubai, and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Masjid in Al Ain.

Outside the Emirates, the firm expects to complete a workers’ hospital project in Qatar; Waterfront City in Beirut, Lebanon; and Jeddah Gate E8, E9, and E10 in Saudi Arabia, all before the end of 2016.

Back in the UAE, ACC will continue its work on Barakah Nuclear Power Plant’s Physical Protection System, and Boulevard Point in Downtown Dubai – projects due to complete in April 2017 and April 2018, respectively. The firm is also performing the role of sub-contractor for Phase 3 of surface facilities at Abu Dhabi’s Al Dabbiya oil and gas development, which is due to complete in August of next year.

Over the longer term, Merehbi’s team will perform the role of main contractor for roads and infrastructure works at the Wahat Al Zaweya development in Al Faqa, Al Ain. Construction activities at the project are due to complete in 2022.

During the next 12 months, Merehbi told Construction Week, ACC will pursue geographical and sectoral expansion. “Our biggest opportunity will be to enter new geographical areas and industries,” he noted. “Our biggest challenges will be the oil price, and the number of new projects that are being launched.”

5. Samer Khoury, President – Engineering and Construction, CCC

When Construction Week’s 2015 Power 100 went to print, Samer Khoury had recently taken the helm of Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) following the passing of his father – and the last of the company’s three founding members – 91-year-old Said T Khoury.

But Samer Khoury was certainly no newcomer to the Greece-headquartered construction giant. He has worked for CCC for three decades. Before assuming his current role of president – engineering and construction, he acted as the firm’s executive vice president of operations.

During the past 12 months, Khoury and his two brothers have worked to bolster their company’s footprint in the Middle East, with a raft of major projects across the region.

Speaking to CW in October 2015, he explained: “Our father pretty much handed us the business 10 years ago to make sure that we were on the right track.” Consequently, the senior management team remained largely unchanged following his father’s death.

In 2015, CCC achieved revenues of $4.6bn, of which 1.5% was profit. Revenues for the current year are expected to hit $6bn, with a projected profit of 2.5%. The contractor also boasts a healthy backlog in excess of $10bn, with over 70 projects across more than 40 countries worldwide.

During the course of the coming year, Khoury’s team will continue to support a number of large-scale projects across the Gulf in conjunction with a range of complementary construction behemoths. These will include $3bn (SAR11.25bn) of works at Saudi Aramco’s Jazan Refinery and Terminal with Petrofac, Saipem, and Hitachi; $8bn (SAR30bn) of works at Riyadh Metro with Bechtel and Almabani; $3bn (AED11bn) of works at Abu Dhabi International Airport with TAV and Arabtec; and $2bn (OMR770m) of works at BP’s Khazzan oilfield in Oman with Petrofac.

Internationally, CCC employs approximately 140,000 employees, including 100,000 labourers and 4,000 qualified engineers. The firm spends 5% of its income on in-house staff training and development.

6. Mohammed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties

The highest-ranking developer in Construction Week’s 2016 Power 100, Emaar Properties’ chairman Mohammed Alabbar has certainly had an interesting year.

After achieving a net profit of $1.1bn (AED4bn) in 2015, Alabbar’s UAE-based firm recorded a further net profit of $330m (AED1.12bn) in Q1 2016.

That said, the past 12 months haven’t all been plain sailing for Alabbar and his team, not least because of a New Year’s Eve blaze at The Address Downtown Dubai. Even without this unfortunate incident, the Emaar chairman admitted that he was concerned about market conditions coming into 2016. Speaking on the sidelines of the developer’s annual general meeting, Alabbar said: “We were really scared of 2016. Preparing for our cost budget, we basically went back to a cost-budget base of two years ago, just to be cautious.”

But judging by Emaar’s latest results, Alabbar’s efficiency drive is paying off. What’s more, the developer’s hospitality division, Emaar Hospitality, recently announced plans to open 35 new hotels across the Middle East.

If Alabbar and his team continue with their cautious but optimistic market strategy, 2016 could well see further profit increases for the developer.

7. Bakr Bin Laden, Chairman, Saudi BinLadin Group

It’s been a difficult year for Saudi Binladin Group’s (SBG) chairman, Bakr Bin Laden. The top name in Construction Week’s 2015 Power 100 has slipped six places due to a series of unfortunate events that began in September 2015, when a crane collapsed onto Makkah’s Masjid Al-Haram. SBG was found to be “part responsible” for the accident, and Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court suspended SBG from taking on new contracts.

In Q2 2016, it emerged that the firm had been struggling to pay its 150,000-plus regional workforce, a situation that culminated in the termination of between 69,000 and 77,000 contracts of employment.

After moving to restructure its portfolio, it was reported that sanctions on SBG could be lifted. In turn, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) announced that work at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport – a $7.2bn (SAR27bn) contract for SBG – had recommenced.

Bin Laden’s contracting giant is down but not out, it seems.

8. Raja Hani Ghanma, CEO, Arabtec Construction

Raja Hani Ghanma was appointed to the position of chief executive officer of Arabtec Construction at a tumultuous time for the UAE-headquartered contractor. His 2015 promotion from chief operating officer followed a series of high-level – and high-profile – departures, including that of former Arabtec Holding CEO, Hasan Ismaik.

Arabtec recorded a net loss of $626m (AED2.3bn) in 2015 as revenues fell to $1.9bn (AED7.3bn), a 12% drop compared to the 2014 figure of $2.2 (AED8.3bn).

As such, Ghanma’s mandate has been to steady the ship. Indeed, in his first interview since taking over as CEO of Arabtec Construction, he told Construction Week that he would rather focus on project delivery than the stock market. “My focus is not the share price,” he explained. “My focus is the business; the wellbeing and performance of [Arabtec Construction].”

Ghanma’s strategy certainly seems to be working, at least in terms of project wins. So far in 2016, Arabtec has inked a series of lucrative UAE deals, including a $299m (AED1.1bn) contract to build a twin-tower residential development in central Dubai, and a $462m (AED1.7bn) contract to build 1,100 villas in Mohammed Bin Zayed City, Fujairah. Moreover, the contractor confirmed that it was awarded deals worth $2.4bn (AED9bn) in 2015.

More positive news emerged in May, when Arabtec reported a Q1 2016 revenue rise of 8%, up to $517.2m (AED1.9bn) from the $490.1m (AED1.8bn) of Q1 2015. Whatever Ghanma is doing, it seems to be paying off.

9. Dr Eng Sani Sener, President and CEO, TAV Group

The past 12 months have been among the busiest ever witnessed by long-serving president and chief executive officer of TAV Group, Sani Sener. His company consists of TAV Airports Holding and TAV Construction. The former is listed on Borsa Istanbul with a market capitalisaiton of $3bn (EUR2.6bn). Last year, it generated revenues of $12.3bn (EUR1.1bn), and anticipates a 7% to 9% revenue increase in 2016.

Impressive though these figures are, Sener concedes that this is a challenging market. “The single biggest challenge that we face is the effect of the low oil price,” he told CW. “However, the majority TAV’s portfolio consists of prioritised, state-funded airport projects that are less [susceptible] to financial crises.”

In 2016 alone, TAV has completed works at four regional transport hubs. In January, it finished the Saudi Airlines Catering Building in Madinah. Its scope included the construction of the 5,719-sqm main structure, a workshop, and three security buildings.

In May, TAV finished its work as the main contractor for Madinah Airport Hotel, Saudi Arabia – a four-star, seven-floor premises that will be operated by Millennium Hotels.

TAV is also ready to hand over King Khalid International Airport’s Terminal 5 in Riyadh: a project for which it was the lead partner of main contractor joint venture, TAV-Al Arrab. This design-and-build (D&B) contract required the construction of a 106,450-sqm passenger terminal building, car park, and associated facilities.

Also in May, TAV completed the extension of Turkey’s Instanbul Ataturk International Airport.

The next 12 months will see TAV continue works at the $3bn (AED10.9bn) Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC); Jeddah’s $765m (SAR2bn) SAEI Aircraft Maintenance Hangars; Bahrain International Airport’s $1bn (BHD380m) modernisation programme; and Phase 2 of the $1.17 (OMR450m) development at Muscat International Airport.

So despite the flurry of recent project completions in the Middle East, it appears there will be no respite for Sener’s team during the coming year.

10. Emad Azmy, President, Al Shafar General Contracting (ASGC)

Emad Azmy, president of Al Shafar General Contracting (ASGC), has climbed five places since Construction Week’s 2015 Power 100, owing largely to an impressive 12 months of financial performance and project delivery.

Last year, ASGC achieved revenues in excess of $770m (AED2.8bn). The UAE-based contractor’s profit for the financial year ending 31 December, 2015 was almost $53m (AED193m), accounting for 6.82% of the firm’s revenue.

Even more encouragingly, Azmy and his team expect to achieve revenues upwards of $843m (AED3.1bn) during ASGC’s current financial year.

As of 30 April, 2016, ASGC employed more than 10,000 people, including 9,205 labourers and 1,106 engineers. Prudently, Azmy has taken steps to invest his company’s profits back into the workforce.

During the period 2012 to 2015, the contracter invested approximately $350,000 (AED1.28m) into staff development. By April of this year, its 2016 training spend had already passed $36,000 (AED133,000).

ASGC’s financial and workforce-related successes have been built on the back of a sound track record in its UAE and Egyptian markets. During the past 12 months, Azmy and his colleagues have completed works at three major UAE developments: Meraas’s City Walk, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, and the Nestle Manufacturing Facility in Dubai South.

During the course of the coming 12 months, ASGC will continue to build a selection of large-scale projects. In its domestic market, the firm is the main contractor at Bluewaters Residential Sector, Marina Bloom, Onyx, EC3, Etihad Museum Jumeirah, and the Green Community Extension.

In Egypt, ASGC is currently acting as the main contractor for two major projects in the capital: Festival City Living and Mivida – Uptown Cairo.

Azmy told CW: “Our challenge is to continue to distinguish ourselves as a leading contracting company that prides itself on the end quality of its work in a price-sensitive market. In the end, it is the quality that keeps our client satisfaction rates among the highest in the industry.”

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