Saudi Arabia’s contractors come together under one roof

Construction Week’s editor Ashley Williams visits one of Saudi Arabia’s most anticipated construction conferences of the year

Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority
Photo: Saudi Contractors Authority

Touted as the largest gathering of its kind for Saudi Arabia and the region, Saudi Contractor Authority’s (SCA) second edition of its Future Projects Forum (FPF) certainly lived up to its potential as it welcomed more than 2,000 contractors to the Hilton Hotel & Residences in Riyadh on the 25-26 February.

But the event should not only be commended for the quantity of contractors, it was also the quality of the speakers that struck home from multi-million dollar projects across the kingdom.

Major representatives from Qiddiya, AMAALA, Saudi Aramco, and The Red Sea Development Company, amongst others, all shared construction updates and delivery timelines, indicating the clear change in the size and nature of the projects in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking on the first day of the conference, Saudi Aramco’s project engineer Eng Abdullah Al Seflan revealed that the world’s largest oil producer would be more than doubling the amount of projects being managed by the firm from 200 to 418 by 2022.

As part of the project management expansion, Al Seflan said that 23% of the producer’s growth will lie in its civil and infrastructure division.

“The vision is to be recognised as a pacesetter for the centre of excellence in project management,” said Al Seflan. “For cost effectiveness of projects, we have the best in class within the oil and gas sector.”

Construction updates for entertainment projects in Saudi Arabia were also a big talking point for the conference.

Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN) senior development manager, Fahad Al Thennayan, revealed to Construction Week that it would build 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas, and two theme parks across 14 cities in Saudi Arabia.

SEVEN’s entertainment attractions will be split into four themes: Adventure, Hanging Gardens, Jungle, and Futurism, which Al Thennayan believes will be a “big hit” in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to transform Saudi Arabia into a global leading hub for entertainment,” Al Thennayan tells Construction Week. “The objective of the entertainment complexes is to deliver a meaningful and unique customer experience which forms the DNA of our developments.”

He adds: “The Al Nahdah entertainment complex is one of the advanced projects that we have. It is in close proximity to a metro station, and we think it is going to be a big hit. We think many people will enjoy the accessibility and relation to the public spaces around the project.” 

One of the other major players of entertainment in Saudi Arabia, Qiddiya, delivered a presentation on its focus for the development.

Qiddiya executive director for real estate development, Mike Hernandez, spoke about how the developer’s focus was to “repatriate” the billions of dollars spent by Saudi nationals seeking entertainment opportunities outside of the kingdom.

Speaking on the second day of the conference, The Red Sea Development Company’s chief project delivery officer, Ian Williamson, told Construction Week that Saudi Arabia was experiencing an “exponential curve” as it forecast to triple its contract awards from $600m in 2019 to $1.8bn by the end of 2020.

“In 2021, the $1.8bn figure will be hit within the first six months, and by this time, we would have bought out our Phase 1 project. There are other packages of work that are in parallel to this, but in essence, we are on an exponential curve,” Williamson tells Construction Week.

“In 2020, the focus is completing designs and really majoring on getting permanent buildings coming out of the ground.”

In Q1 2020, Williamson added that TRSDC plans to have its coastal village villas and townhouses completed, while they also aim to have its residential apartment buildings finished within Q4 2020 to Q3 2021.

The FPF was also a platform for stakeholders and contractors to collaborate, with a considerable number of joint ventures and agreements signed during the two-day event.

SCA wrapped up day one of the conference by signing three memorandum of understandings (MoU), two agreements, as well as a contract, between Saudi Arabia’s governmental entities and private firms from the region.

The MOU’s, signed by SCA’s Governor Eng Thabet Al-Sawyeed, were with the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, the Saudi Centre for Governance, and the National Program for Commercial Coverage.

Agreements were also inked with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, as well as another with Saudi Arabia’s Human Resource Development Fund ‘Hadaf’.

On day two, SCA also signed deals with Mashroat for further investment into KSA’s construction field, as well as the National Center for Family Businesses and Bayan Credit Bureau.

Other notable collaborations included the joint venture between Saudi Arabia’s Al Kifah and Spanish multidisciplinary engineering and architecture company, Grupotec, to supply solar power for Saudi Arabia’s industrial and commercial sectors, as well as to develop large scale solar projects.

Al Kifah and Grupotec will explore the opportunities for the renewable sector by supplying solar power for Phase 1 of the kingdom’s major projects, including Qiddiya, Neom, and The Red Sea Project.

Speaking to Construction Week, Al Kifah investment manager, Hassan Ali, said: “We selected Grupotec through the alignment of our capabilities and to pursue opportunities of the renewable sector in Saudi Arabia.”

The magnitude of construction progress is clear to see as Saudi Arabia pursues its efforts to be one of the most attractive markets in the Middle East.

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