Orascom CEO eyes unique plan to diversify in the Middle East
Egypt-based construction heavyweight Orascom plans to leverage its technical capabilities to develop infrastructure and development projects in the Middle East and Africa
Chief executive officer of Orascom Construction Limited, Osama Bishai, joined the company in the mid-1980s, and was appointed managing director in 1998.
During his tenure he has played a key role in developing the business, particularly in the cement, infrastructure and industrial sectors.
He currently spearheads efforts to create a long-term concessions portfolio and is leading the growth of the US business. Orascom Construction employs approximately 53,000 people in more than 20 countries, and is listed on both the NASDAQ Dubai and the Egyptian Exchange.
Please explain who Orascom is and what it does in the construction sector.
Orascom Construction Limited is a global engineering and construction contractor primarily focused on infrastructure, industrial and high-end commercial projects in the Middle East, North Africa and the United States.
We also develop and invest in infrastructure projects, own 50% of BESIX Group, and hold a construction materials and industrial property management portfolio.
What are the major projects you have been involved in in the Middle East, and why are these projects important?
Our roots trace back to the 1950s where the business started in Egypt, and we have evolved into a major player that is active across all major construction sectors with a particular focus on complex infrastructure, industrial and commercial activity with a footprint in the Middle East and the US.
We are involved in all major segments of the construction industry and are proud to work on important infrastructure projects across sectors such as power, water treatment, transportation, and healthcare.
In Egypt, we are an integral player in the development of the country’s infrastructure, which is experiencing significant investment. Orascom played a major role in the development of the power generation capacity in Egypt and is a key player in the Cairo Metro programme. We are also proud to be in a joint venture with BESIX, which is building the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which will be the new home for the ancient Egyptian civilisation.
How did the company perform in the last 12 months, and what are your expectations for the year ahead?
Our Middle East operation continued its strong performance, led by our operations in Egypt. Important projects here include the largest natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants in the world, two tunnels that cross under the Suez Canal, and water desalination and wastewater treatment plants.
We will continue this trajectory as we execute our current backlog while targeting quality contracts in the region where we have a competitive edge. Key new projects outside of Egypt include the expansion of Fujairah International Airport in the UAE.
How much is your pipeline of work in the Middle East currently worth?
Our current backlog in the Middle East amounts to approximately $3.4bn. While we are evaluating opportunities across the region, Egypt is currently our largest market, followed by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Algeria.
What is your long-term growth strategy for the Middle East region?
We will continue to focus on the populous countries in the Middle East and Africa, focusing primarily on infrastructure and industrial projects.
In most of the Middle East countries and Africa, there is a dire need for major infrastructure investments to support economic and population growth.
Orascom can leverage its technical capability and its ability to arrange competitive financing packages that would support such programmes. We are also considering bankable infrastructure concessions that would allow us to not only be the contractor, but also an equity partner and/or a developer.
What are the major areas of growth for Orascom in the Middle East today?
We expect additional growth across the infrastructure sector, including water desalination and wastewater treatment, transportation, power, and healthcare.
We will continue to capitalise on our experience and ability to execute complex projects on a fast-track basis, as exemplified by our recent achievements in the power and water desalination projects. In addition, we will continue to leverage our financing experience to help structure and raise competitive financing on behalf of our clients, as well as our own infrastructure investments.