Jose Antonio López-Monís
Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG) has endured something of a turbulent time since its formation in 2007, when Australian construction giant paid around $860m for a 45% stake in Al Habtoor Group’s construction arm, Al Habtoor Engineering.
The subsequent decline in Dubai’s property market meant that many of its projects ground to a halt, including the Dubai Pearl – a $4bn project which was meant to contain four towers linked by a sky bridge at the top, but whose large concrete hulk serves as a daily reminder to many residents that not all of the pre-crash schemes in the emirate have found a new lease of life.
Indeed, figures in Leighton Holdings’ filed accounts for 2012 revealed in February that HLG owed its Australian shareholder $1.1bn at the beginning of this year, including $835m in loans, letters of credit, interest payments and receivables.
López-Monís was drafted into the company in October last year from Dragados – an arm of Spanish construction giant Grupo ACS. Grupo ACS owns a 49.9% stake in Leighton Holdings’ majority shareholder, Hochtief.
He has since sought to strengthen its team, drafting in Elias Zraicat as the new executive general manager of its UAE, Oman and Northern Gulf operations unit from Leighton Asia, and promoting Brett Bass to the role of Oman general manager.
Like many contractors, HLG has also sought to diversify by chasing opportunities in new sectors and territories. It won its first oil & gas deal in Iraq last September and secured a further $68m win in the sector from the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (ADMA-OPCO) last month.
This involved building accommodation camps on two artificial offshore islands. Lopez-Munis said such deals “align perfectly with HLG’s building and infrastructure expertise, and the group’s ability to deliver specialist projects in remote locations”.