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2017 Construction Week Power 100: 1-10

<i>Construction Week</i>’s annual ranking of the most influential people in the Middle East’s construction industry.

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1. Kez Taylor, CEO, ALEC

Topping Construction Week’s 2017 Power 100 is last year’s runner up, Kez Taylor. As chief executive officer of UAE-headquartered contracting giant, ALEC, Taylor has enjoyed a barnstorming 12 months.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Binaa Dubai had acquired a 90% stake in the company, and it’s not difficult to see why. With revenue in its most recent financial year passing $1.06bn (AED3.9bn), and projected income of $1.09bn (AED4bn) for 2017/18, ALEC is in rude financial health.

Taylor’s team completed a dizzying array of UAE projects between June 2016 and May 2017, including Bvlgari Resort & Residences Dubai; Phase 2 of Dubai Festival City; numerous works on Terminals 1 and 3 of Abu Dhabi International Airport; UAE Martyr’s Memorial Park; and Jebel Ali School.

ALEC’s portfolio of ongoing projects, meanwhile, includes the Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) expansion at Al Maktoum International Airport; Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City; Dubai Hills Estate Regional Mall; and Select Group’s three-tower Marina Gate development.

Commenting on potential growth areas for the coming year, Taylor told Construction Week: “The biggest opportunity [for ALEC] will be the award of mega-construction projects in Dubai, such as Dubai Creek Harbour and the Expo 2020 site.

“These megaprojects cannot be delivered by everyone; they require a certain skillset to ensure they are delivered on time and within budget. We see this as a major opportunity for ALEC and all of our related businesses,” he added.

2. Yu Tao, president and CEO, CSCEC ME

As president and chief executive officer of China State Construction Engineering Corporation Middle East (CSCEC ME), Yu Tao presides over the regional activities of the second largest contractor on the planet.

With more than 10,000 construction professionals currently working in the GCC, 966 of whom are qualified engineers, CSCEC ME boasts one of the region’s most comprehensive project portfolios.

Between June 2016 and May 2017, Tao’s team completed packages on a series of high-profile projects, including Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai; Al Hikma Tower; Dubai Water Canal; and Al Amal Hospital.

Within the UAE, the contractor is currently working on Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village; Crescent Hotel; Hameni Tower; Damac Towers by Paramount Hotels & Resorts; and Abu International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Building (MTB).

Outside of the Emirates, CSCEC ME is working as the main contractor for Kuwait University Academic Support Facilities (ACSF), a key component of Sabah Al-Salem University City.

Commenting on upcoming opportunities for CSCEC ME, Tao identified China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ strategy, which seeks to strengthen the country’s links with other Eurasian markets.

“The Chinese government will continue to work with the UAE government in various areas, such as the economy, technology, and culture,” Tao elaborated. “CSCEC ME will benefit from the ‘One Belt One Road’ strategy by participating in [future] construction projects in the UAE.”

3. Samer Khoury, president – engineering and construction, CCC

In third position on Construction Week’s 2017 Power 100, climing two places from his previous position, is Samer Khoury, president of engineering and construction at Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC).

During its 2016 financial year, CCC’s global revenue passed the $5.4bn mark, and its projected income for 2017 is a touch above $5.9bn.

Between June 2016 and May 2017, Khoury’s team completed several high-profile projects across the GCC, including Package 6 of Oman’s Batinah Expressway; Burj Vista in the UAE; Package 1 of the Wasit Gas Development Project in Saudi Arabia; and Kuwait’s New Export Transit Pipelines.

The contractor’s ongoing regional projects include the Jazan Refinery and Terminal Project in Saudi Arabia; the Rabab Harweel Integrated Project in Oman; and Package 1 of Kuwait’s Mina Abdullah Clean Fuels Project, which involves engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC).

In the UAE, CCC is currently working as the main contractor for Dubai’s Emirates Hills development. Under the terms of the deal, Khoury and his colleagues will complete the design and construction of two residential towers and two hotel and serviced apartment towers, plus an interconnecting podium with basement-level car parking.

When asked about the biggest challenges facing CCC’s business in the Middle East, Khoury cited “unfair payment conditions and delays in payment”.

Beyond the GCC, he said CCC planned to pursue work on the Tengizchevroil (TCO) Future Growth Projects in Kazakhstan.

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

Ghassan Merehbi, president and founder of Arabian Construction Company (ACC), has enjoyed a particularly busy 12 months.

While his firm’s 2016 revenue of $1.1bn represented a slight decline compared to the $1.27bn figure achieved in 2015, ACC boasts in-hand contracts worth approximately $5.3bn and a backlog of around $3bn.

Moreover, Merehbi presides over an enormous team of  regional construction professionals. At the last count, ACC employed more than 19,000 skilled tradespeople, almost 6,000 labourers, approximately 900 qualified engineers, and in excess of 1,800 ancillary staff.

Encouragingly, this mammoth workforce has been particularly busy during the past 12 months. Between June 2016 and May 2017, ACC completed a diverse array of regional projects, including Waterfront City in Beirut, Lebanon; Jeddah Gate E8, E9, and E10 in Saudi Arabia; a souq renovation package for Abu Dhabi’s Central Market Redevelopment in the UAE; and Volante Tower in Dubai.

Merehbi’s team is currently supporting construction works at Abu Dhabi’s Al Meena Residential and Commercial Tower; Dubai’s The Address Residence Sky View and The Address Residence Fountain View; Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque in Al Ain; Jeddah Gate E5 in Saudi Arabia; and many others, both in the GCC and beyond.

When asked what he believes will represent ACC’s biggest opportunity during the coming 12 months, Merehbi revealed his intention to “enter new geographical areas and industries”.

5. Hamish Tyrwhitt, group CEO, Arabtec Holding | group CEO, DEPA

In what looks to be a Construction Week Power 100 record, Hamish Tyrwhitt has climbed 71 places since 2016.

When last year’s issue went to print, Tyrwhitt was group chief executive officer of Depa. While he has retained this title, Tyrwhitt has added several other roles to his CV during the past 12 months, including group CEO of Arabtec Holding, acting CEO of Arabtec Construction, and acting CEO of EFECO – all part of the Arabtec family.

It’s no secret that Arabtec Holding has had a challenging few years, but the company’s fortunes appear to be on the rise. While it made a net loss of $953m (AED3.5bn) last year, Q1 2017 saw the UAE-headquartered construction giant turn a profit for the first time in since 2014.

Backed by the group’s 58,000-strong workforce, Tyrwhitt is now looking to capitalise on this momentum and secure future growth. Arabtec Construction’s ongoing projects include Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC); Bahrain International Airport; Abu Dhabi’s West Yas Development; and the University of Kuwait. Moreover, in May 2017, Wasl Asset Management awarded the $398m (AED1.46bn) main contract for Dubai’s Wasl Tower to the contractor.

Commenting on his team’s major opportunities for the coming year, Tyrwhitt told Construction Week: “Our recapitalisation programme has enabled us to look to the future and ensure we are well placed to capitalise on opportunities arising from [major events and initiatives].”

6. Emad Azmy, president, ASGC

As president of UAE-based contractor, ASGC, Emad Azmy has enjoyed solid levels of business during the past 12 months. In its most recent financial year, his company achieved revenue of approximately $816.8m (AED3bn), and Azmy’s team projects that income in 2017 will hit $1.09bn (AED4bn).

At present, ASGC employs more than 1,100 construction professionals, 522 of whom are qualified engineers. Azmy and his colleagues are also responsible for a 9,210-strong cohort of labourers.

Azmy is a keen proponent of professional development, as evidenced by his company’s continued investment in its workforce. Last year, ASGC spent approximately $110,000 (AED405,400) on training and certification, and the company is on course to invest an additional $122,500  (AED450,000) during the course of 2017.

Encouragingly for Azmy, such investments appear to be paying off, both in terms of work secured and productivity. Between June 2016 and May 2017, ASGC completed works on numerous UAE projects, including Etihad Museum, The Onyx, and Marina Bloom. Moreover, ASGC is currently working as the main contractor on Mohamed Bin Rashid Library, the Terminal 1 refurbishment at Dubai International Airport, Vivanta Hotel by Taj, and The Dubai Mall expansion project.

Commenting on ASGC’s future priorities, Azmy said: “Our aim is to maintain the trust and confidence that Dubai government organisations and main developers have given us, and continue to develop our relationships with other main clients.”

7. Sani Şener, president and CEO, TAV Group

As president and chief executive officer of TAV Group, Sani Sener and his colleagues have enjoyed a busy year, especially within their core market of aviation.

Since its establishment in 2003, TAV Construction, the Turkey-based group’s construction arm, has built up a portfolio of completed and ongoing projects worth more than $19bn. Last year, the division achieved almost $1.5bn in global revenue, and Sener expects to sustain these levels in 2017.

In the GCC, TAV employs more than 20,000 people, approximately 1,100 of whom are qualified engineers. As part of various joint ventures, the company is currently supporting construction on Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Building (MTB); Bahrain International Airport’s modernisation programme; and Muscat International Airport’s expansion.

Sener and his team have also made significant inroads in non-aviation sectors. For instance, TAV is working as the main contractor on Damac Towers by Paramount Hotels & Resorts, a four-tower megaproject in Dubai’s Business Bay area.

Commenting on the strategic importance of the Gulf to TAV Construction’s activities, Sener said: “We see the Middle East as one of our primary target [markets] for future expansion. Our strategy is to sustain this growth with new [and] prestigious projects in already established markets, where we have a strong presence and reputation. With this in mind, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain represent the three main venues for our short- to medium-term growth.”

8. Khaled Musaed El Seif, chairman, El Seif Engineering Contracting Co

As chairman of Saudi Arabia-based El Seif Engineering Contracting Company, Khaled Musaed El Seif presides over one of the largest contracting companies in the kingdom.

The company, which employs more than 40,000 construction professionals in total, completed an impressive number of projects between June 2016 and May 2017.

In Saudi Arabia, the firm acted as the main contractor for the Haramain High Speed Rail Project’s passenger stations in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC); the Millennium Hotel in Ha’il; a sports hall and athletic stadium in Jeddah; and junctions, underpasses, travelators, tunnels, and land bridges for Thumamah Road in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD).

El Seif’s current project portfolio, meanwhile, includes a series of large-scale developments in both its domestic market and the neighbouring UAE.

At present, the company is supporting the construction of 10 residential cities in the kingdom’s Southern Region, and a five-star hotel in the city of Tabouk. In the Emirates, El Seif is working on Dubai’s Entisar Tower, and a 2,200-villa Meydan residential development.

The Saudi Arabian contractor is also facilitating the development of a security-related special forces project, and a building that will be used in the pursuit of international cooperation, both within the Middle East region.

9. Mohamed Alabbar, chairman, Emaar Properties

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of UAE-headquartered Emaar Properties and the highest-ranking developer on Construction Week’s 2017 Power 100, sits at the helm of a vast real estate empire in both its domestic Dubai market and beyond.

Earlier this month, the firm announced plans to list its UAE real estate development business through an equity offering of up to 30% on Dubai Financial Market (DFM) – a move that saw the DFM General Index register a three-month high of 3,406 points.

Emaar Properties reported a net profit of $377m (AED1.4bn) in Q1 2017, an increase of 15% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. Commenting on the results, Alabbar said: “We have seen an increase in property sales in Dubai, and we are on track with our construction milestones.”

Emaar’s current flagship project, The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour, has also witnessed significant progress during the past year. Since the development’s ground-breaking ceremony in October 2016, more than 145 barrette piles have been laid, and they are now being trimmed in preparation for the laying of a 19m-thick pile cap.

10. Bakr Bin Laden, chairman, Saudi Binladin Group

It’s been another difficult year for Bakr Bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s ailing contracting giant, Saudi Binladin Group (SBG). Shortly after publication of Construction Week’s 2016 Power 100, reports emerged that SBG planned to sell property and other assets to pay its mounting debts.

In October 2016, UAE daily The National reported that payments to SBG from Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry had started to filter through, and were helping to alleviate the contractor’s financial pressures.

In February 2017, Reuters reported that Bin Laden and his colleagues had secured fresh payments from Saudi Arabia’s government as part of further efforts to pay monies owed. The move, according to the news wire’s anonymous sources, was intended to provide a boost to both SBG and the kingdom’s economy.

Nevertheless, SBG’s financial woes have resulted in public criticism from numerous segments of the market, including expatriate employees who claim to have been left unpaid and stranded in Saudi Arabia, and construction companies from elsewhere in the supply chain. The former board of kingdom-based contractor Mohammad Al-Mojil Group (MMG), for example, accused SBG of non-payment in July of last year.

Nevertheless, Bin Laden remains an influential figure within the Middle East’s constructions sector, with historic projects spanning the aviation, healthcare, and education segments, not to mention a series of high-profile developments in the holy cities of Makkah and Medina.

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