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2018 Construction Week Power 100: 1-10

Construction Week’s annual ranking of the Middle East’s most influential construction leaders

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1. Kez Taylor, ALEC

Taking the top spot in the Construction Week Power 100 for the second year in a row is Kez Taylor, chief executive officer of ALEC Engineering and Contracting. In the 17 years that he has held the role, Taylor has led ALEC’s work on some of the Gulf’s most high-profile projects, especially in its home market, the UAE.

With its focus firmly on commercial, hospitality, retail, and exhibition projects, the firm saw revenue of more than $1bn (AED3.7bn) in the last financial year and expects income of $1.1bn (AED4bn) for 2018–19, with a backlog worth over $2.72bn (AED10bn).

In the past year, Taylor’s team has worked as principal contractor on some of Dubai’s most high-profile projects, including the Bluewaters Island retail district; the Bulgari Resort, Dubai; Holiday Inn, Dubai Festival City; the expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport; and Marina Gate I Residences. ALEC’s pipeline of ongoing developments, meanwhile, includes Emaar’s Dubai Hills Mall, One Za’abeel, and the Deira Waterfront Office & Hotel at Ithra Dubai.

This is in addition to the Conference & Exhibition Centre Campus and Emaar’s Mobility Pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai.

The growth of the contractor’s workforce demonstrates its success in the UAE market. ALEC currently employs 252 full-time qualified engineers, 2,656 unskilled labourers, and a total of 205 women.

Taylor cites the upcoming expo as the single biggest opportunity for ALEC during the next 12 months: “With Expo 2020 drawing closer and developers wanting to ensure they are ready to capitalise on the increased number of visitors to the city, there is going to be massive demand and pressure on contractors to deliver,” he says. “This is going to affect the actual exhibition facility as well as myriad associated developments, such as hospitality and commercial spaces.

“Contractors that are geared up to meet this demand will be well placed to participate in a meaningful way and play a major role in helping the city deliver this iconic event.”

Taylor goes on to say that payment delays are a major challenge that the industry must seek to manage in the year to come: “For a long time, clients involved in construction projects have not met their obligations with regards to payments, and have done so without consequence.

“This has brought tremendous pressure to the whole supply chain, which [...] as a result is not able to perform like it used to. As an industry, we need to find a way to ensure that cash is available for construction projects and is released on time – and fairly – to allow all stakeholders to perform.”

2. Yu Tao, CSCEC ME

President and chief executive officer of China State Construction and Engineering Corporation Middle East (CSCEC ME), Yu Tao, heads up the contracting giant’s regional operations.

With 2017 revenues of $750m (AED2.8bn), the company has been engaged in projects such as the 150,000m² Silicon Park, a smart city project at Dubai Silicon Oasis; the steel works at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Building; the new headquarters for National Bank of Kuwait, located in Kuwait City’s central business district; and the UAE’s iconic, newly opened Dubai Water Canal.

Over the next 12 months, CSCEC ME will be busy with notable UAE schemes, such as those for Arenco Hotel, Namaa Properties’ Paramount Tower, Expo Village, and Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) R881/3C2 Parallel Road Project. CSCEC ME received the RTA’s letter of acceptance for the project in January. The company said its contract for the road development is valued at $218m (AED800m).

In addition, the contractor is working on the administration facility of Kuwait University’s Sabah Al-Salem University City. And, this January, Ajman Holding signed an agreement with CSCEC ME to develop and construct Mirkaaz, a shopping destination in Ajman. Valued at $136m (AED500m), Mirkaaz will be the first mall in the UAE to feature an atrium roof of more than 7,900m2, and natural ultraviolet light. The project is expected to receive more than 10 million visitors in its first year. Construction work is due to be completed in Q4 2019.

Furthermore, in September 2017, Union Properties signed an agreement with CSCEC ME to develop a $2bn (AED8bn) masterplan for its flagship Motor City community in Dubai. The five-stage project was scheduled to break ground in January, with overall completion set for 2021. Each stage of the project will take 48 months to complete, Nasser Butti Omair bin Yousef, chairman of Union Properties, told Construction Week at the time.

Most recently, in June, CSCEC ME won a $19.6m (AED72m) contract to build roads and infrastructure for Akoya Oxygen, Damac’s billion-dollar luxury villa community.

With a total workforce of more than 12,000 construction professionals across the GCC – 1,312 of which are qualified engineers – staff training is a high priority for the contractor. Tao says that “optimising management resources such as labour efficiency” is one of the key challenges that the company faces at present, and the firm’s training and development budget for 2018 is $80,000 (AED294,000).

Technology is also a key focus for CSCEC ME, and in 2017 the company organised its first technical conference, which saw all the firm’s technical departments share “innovative engineering solutions related to their projects”, according to Tao.

The company plans to invest more than $1m (AED3.7m) in technology this year, as well as to emphasise the enhancement of its construction technology research work, including through its 3D Printing Construction Research & Development Centre.

As in 2017, Tao identifies China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ strategy as a key growth opportunity for CSCEC ME going forwards. The initiative on the part of the Chinese government aims to strengthen the country’s ties with other Eurasian markets, and will see continuing cooperation between China and the UAE in areas such as economic and technological development.

This programme will facilitate CSCEC ME’s endeavour “to participate in more potential construction projects in the UAE”, Tao tells Construction Week.

3. Hamish Tyrwhitt, Arabtec Group | Depa Holding

As group chief executive officer of Arabtec Holding, Hamish Tyrwhitt has successfully capitalised on the momentum the business began to build in Q1 2017, securing revenues of $2.5bn (AED9.2bn) in the last financial year. The UAE-headquartered construction giant worked as the main contractor on projects including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s Damac Heights and Oud Muteena Villas, and Aramco Villas in Saudi Arabia. The company’s ongoing portfolio includes work on Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal Project in a joint venture (JV) with CCC and TAV, Bahrain International Airport in a JV with TAV, and Jordan’s Saraya Aqaba in a JV with CCC.

Tyrwhitt says that Expo 2020 Dubai is proving crucial for the local sector: “Expo-related development projects are expected to exceed $33bn (AED121.2bn), with more than 2,000 new structures being built in the UAE. [The event] is one of the single biggest opportunities for Arabtec Group within the next [year].”

And in his role as group CEO of Depa Group, Tyrwhitt has also enjoyed a very good year. The group performed well “as a result of strong progress in executing its clearly defined business strategy, coupled with improved operational performance, and the collection of a number of significant receivables”, Tyrwhitt explains.

In the last fiscal year, Depa Group saw $490.1m (AED1.8bn) in revenues and delivered specialist solutions for the interior fit-out of projects in the UAE including the InterContinental Resort Fujairah; Robinson’s Department Store at Dubai Festival City; W Dubai – The Palm; Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah, Dubai; and the Dolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta boutiques in the new Dubai Mall Fashion Avenue extension.

Leveraging and continuing this success will be Depa Group’s main focus over the next 12 months. “Depa is now focused on the next phase of its strategy: delivering consistent, sustainable top- and bottom-line growth,” says Tyrwhitt.

4. Emad Azmy, ASGC Construction

As president of ASGC Construction, Emad Azmy is leading the company’s continued endeavours to expand and invest in its more than 11,000-strong workforce.

“The key initiative for 2018 is the launch of the ASGC Labour Training Academy,” Azmy tells Construction Week.

“The academy delivers training and knowledge upgrades for all of ASGC’s workforce. It hosts new joiners for job training; offers health, safety, and environment training; and delivers development training programmes that lead to career progression for workers and supervisors.”

Indeed, prioritising professional development is a strategy that appears to be delivering results for the firm. ASGC’s recent portfolio of projects, for which it was engaged as main contractor, includes an $81.7m (AED300m) contract for the Green Community Expansion Phase 1, and a deal worth $398m (AED1.5bn) for the Bluewaters Island project in Dubai. This is in addition to a $165.4m (AED608m) contract for Bloom Marina in Abu Dhabi; and contracts in Cairo, Egypt, worth $17.2m (AED63.1m) for the Mivida Park Residence and $26.7m (AED97.9m) for the Festival Living Apartments.

The company is also the main contractor for ongoing projects that include the Six Flags Dubai theme park, Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Dubai Arena, the Dubai International Airport improvement works project, Mediclinic Park View Hospital, One Central H2B Hotel, and the Green Community expansion.

Moving forwards, Azmy says that ASGC will look to diversify into projects within the infrastructure space, and to expand its business in Africa.

While the UAE and Egypt remain two of the most important markets for the firm, geographies such as Angola, Kenya, and Ghana are also the focus in 2018.

“The challenge is to continue to distinguish ourselves as a leading contracting company specialised in the construction of large-scale and iconic projects,” says Azmy, adding that ASGC will “continue to be selective about the scale and nature of the projects that we pursue” as he leads his team into new markets across Africa.

Technology is also a key area of focus for the firm. The construction company has budgeted approximately $9m (AED33m) for capital and operational spend on information technology systems. This figure marks a $2.5m (AED9.2m) hike over the corresponding 2017 value.

Some of the technology programmes that ASGC will implement or expand upon this year will cover the use of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to boost labour productivity and safety; cloud-based technology to track, use, and maintain core equipment and assets; and enhanced customer relationship management systems, Azmy says.

He adds that in 2018, ASGC also plans to focus on end-to-end integrated cost control through building information modelling integration; cloud-based documentation management; and advanced e-procurement methods to digitise operations such as purchasing life cycle management, vendor selection, classification, and contracting.

ASGC was named Contractor of the Year at the Construction Week Awards 2017, held in Dubai last December.

5. Dr Eng Sani Sener, TAV Group

TAV Group has once again seen a busy year under the leadership of president and chief executive officer, Dr Eng Sani Sener. Revenue in the last financial year reached $2.1bn (AED7.7bn), and the total value of TAV’s ongoing construction projects is estimated at $6.5bn (AED23.9bn).

In 2017-18, TAV has been involved numerous high-profile projects in the Middle East, particularly in its core market of aviation. In addition to the Emaar Square Package 3 (hotel and shopping mall), TAV has worked on the development of Muscat International Airport in Oman in a joint venture (JV) with CCC, and as the main contractor on an airport hotel project at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Ongoing projects in TAV’s portfolio include the Midfield Terminal Building at Abu Dhabi International Airport, as part of a TAV-CCC-Arabtec JV; Bahrain International Airport’s modernisation programme, in an Arabtec-TAV JV; and the Yanbu, Qassim, and Hail airports in Saudi Arabia, where TAV is the developer, contractor, and operator.

With a workforce of almost 50,000, TAV’s training and development budget for 2018 is $1m (AED3.7m). The company is also planning to invest more than $3m (AED11m) in technology this year. “More investment is planned to improve the digital resources available to staff and projects with the aim of improving productivity in 2018,” says Sener.

“TAV Construction is investing in technologies to expand information management implementations that combine all forms of information on the project, including for handover and the use of data beyond construction, during operations by the end-users.

“These investments include increased opportunities to automate reporting [functions] through real time dashboards, to significantly reduce the time and effort [required] to make information available to all parties, and to streamline decision-making, while increasing awareness on projects. Development, with the focus on expanding the use of digital information management systems – on site and beyond construction – [...] is aggressively planned for throughout 2018,” he tells Construction Week.

6. Samer Khoury, CCC

For another year, the president of engineering and construction at Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), Samer Khoury, has made it into the Construction Week Power 100 list. The company, which describes itself as the largest construction enterprise in the Middle East with more than 100,000 staff, enjoyed another stellar year of business.

Demonstrating its forward-thinking approach to engineering and construction, the contracting giant entered into a tie-up with Immense Technology Labs this year to create a cutting-edge digital warehouse, as part of extensive plans to embrace and incorporate disruptive technology. It will allow the contractor to create a digital inventory of its spare parts and components, both of which it will subsequently produce using 3D printing on an ad hoc basis.

This will help CCC to cut its carbon footprint by reducing the requirement to transport goods internationally, and combat waste by ensuring only the exact number of parts are made.

It will also simplify CCC’s supply chain by allowing the business to manufacture specific parts when and where they are needed. For a company that operates in six countries in the Middle East, nine in Africa, and two in Asia, the long-term economic and environmental impact of this agreement is likely to be significant.

In June 2017, an official from CCC said the contractor’s portfolio of green projects was valued in the billions of dollars. Samir Thabet, the company’s sustainability coordination manager, told Construction Week that CCC was managing several projects that were pursuing green certifications.

These projects, Thabet noted at the time, had a combined value of more than $5bn, and included Lines 1 and 2 of the Riyadh Metro; Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Building; Phase 1 of an automated people-mover project in the UAE; the Opera Grand Tower and Al Zahia City Centre, also in the UAE; and the City Centre Almaza in Egypt.

7. Ghassan Merehbi, Arabian Construction Company

Arabian Construction Company (ACC) saw revenues of $1.3bn (AED4.8bn) in 2017, tackling projects such as the 37-storey Link Tower residential project in Abu Dhabi, the Address Residence Sky View Towers in Downtown Dubai, and Al Meena Residential Towers in Abu Dhabi.

Other projects for which ACC is working as the main contractor include Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, and Al Dabb’iya Surface Facilities for Adco, a unit of the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

As chairman, Ghassan Merehbi oversees the Lebanese company’s large workforce, which comprises about 25,000 unskilled labourers and approximately 1,000 qualified engineers. ACC is very particular about the competencies of its manpower, says Merehbi: “Different types of training programmes are proposed and carried out at various levels.

“Training programmes are classified into multiple levels and are often carried out based on the needs and skill-set requirements of a specific project or department,” he tells Construction Week.

The chairman says that growth represents the main challenge facing ACC in the coming 12 months, but it is hoped that the company’s focus on upskilling its staff will support the business as it looks to seize new opportunities in key regional markets such as the UAE, Egypt, and in particular, Saudi Arabia.

8. HE Mohamed Alabbar, Emaar Properties

Chairman of Emaar Properties, HE Mohamed Alabbar, has led the UAE-headquartered developer to another strong year of growth. Not only did Emaar Properties record a 37% upswing in year-on-year revenue during Q1 2018 – helping to cement Alabbar’s place in Construction Week’s Power 100 – it also strengthened its market position with a landmark announcement. In a game-changing joint venture with Aldar Properties, worth $8.1bn (AED30bn), Emaar has paved the way for the construction of at least one major project each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Through this partnership, Emaar has the potential to increase the UAE’s portfolio of iconic real-estate developments and, as it has done in the past, to boost the national economy and contribute to the elevation of the UAE’s global reputation by developing flagship projects. Current Emaar projects that are under way in the UAE include the Dubai Creek Tower and Emaar Beachfront.

9. Steve Flint, Khansaheb

Group general manager for UAE-based Khansaheb Civil Engineering, Steve Flint, and his team of construction professionals, have completed a host of projects in Dubai in the past 12 months. These have included the 249-unit Serenia Residences on the Palm Jumeirah; Gate Village Building 11, known as The Exchange, at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC); and Phase 1 of a refurbishment project at Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It also completed Phase 1 of Majid Al Futtaim’s City Centre project in the emirate of Ajman. During the coming year, Khansaheb will be working as main contractor on projects such as the Ajman City Centre expansion and refurbishment; Phase 2 of Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s refurbishment project; and the Gate Building refit and Coffee Zone development at DIFC.

While Flint lists low liquidity as one of challenges that contractors might have to contend with in the months to come, Khansaheb has a $2m (AED7.35m) budget dedicated to expanding its offering through the use of technology.

10. Patrick Mckinney, BAM International

During his 30-year career with BAM International, Patrick McKinney has worked in the Middle East for 22 years. He has served eight years as the company’s area director for the Middle East / Gulf States, and has built a reputation as a leader in the regional construction industry, especially within the contractor’s core market of civil and marine engineering projects.

In the last 12 months, BAM International completed Phases 1a, 1b, and 2 of Jebel Ali Container Terminal 4 in Dubai; and Phase 2 of Al Ain Stadium and Mixed-Use Development, which comprises seven five-storey apartment buildings, a 172-bed hotel, and associated infrastructure, and was named Residential Project of the Year at the Construction Week Awards 2017 last December.

Looking ahead, BAM International will be involved with various projects, including Phases 1 and 2 of the Saqr Port expansion in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE; the Container Terminal 4 Connection Project Packages 1 and 2 in Jebel Ali; the Jebel Ali Landfill Project for Dubai Municipality’s Drainage Lift Station; and the construction of an 18,000-seat, multifunctional arena located within Abu Dhabi’s Yas integrated destination resort.

Another major project for BAM going forwards is the Museum of the Future in Dubai, due to open in 2019. A feat of design, engineering, and construction, the museum will rank as “one of the most complicated projects ever built”, according to BAM. The high-profile and futuristic museum’s façade requires the joint-free assembly of 1,050 stainless steel and fiberglass-fused panels, fabricated using methods borrowed from the aviation industry.

According to McKinney, in light of the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai, the “timely completion of the technically challenging and iconic Museum of the Future” represents a significant opportunity in terms of the “exposure this project will provide for BAM”.

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