With 80 per cent of its business coming from oil and gas and heavy construction and 90 per cent from the Gulf, CCC is heavily reliant on one sector and one geographic region for its livelihood. As a result, it is stepping up its diversification drive. ‘It is very important that we diversify,’ says Samer Khoury. ‘Construction is cyclical, we need to create a steady revenue stream and we have to find opportunities for our staff and equipment, when the boom comes to an end.’

No lay-offs

Unusually for a company of its size, CCC has a policy of not laying off its permanent staff. Of the 74,000 on its books, about 7,000 are permanent, mainly in the fields of engineering, management and support. The figure is rising too. ‘We used to have about 4,000 and with the amount of work we now have, it could increase to about 10,000,’ says Khoury.

CCC’s diversification strategy takes in both geographic expansion and an increase in its development activities. Markets in the CIS and Africa have been targeted. ‘We cannot afford to put our activities in Africa or the CIS on hold. We have a presence and we have to maintain them,’ says Khoury. In Guinea, it is working with Paris-based Technip and the US’ Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I) on preliminary studies for an integrated alumina project. In the CIS, it is aggressively pursuing opportunities, particularly in Kazakhstan, where it completed in 2004 the $900 million Karachaganak gas development project.

On the development side, which is run out of London by Wael Khoury, CCC is looking to build up its interests in the oil and gas,

telecoms and utility sectors. Last year, it added Nigeria to its existing oil and gas portfolio, which takes in three blocks in Yemen and the offshore Gaza concession, winning two blocks with the UK’s Centrica. This year, it hopes, with its partner, the UK’s BG Group, to finalise a gas offtake agreement for the offshore Gaza field. ‘There was an agreement in principle last year between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Cairo to take the gas into Egypt and use it for LNG feedstock. The current political situation means we will have to wait for things to settle down, but hopefully it will move,’ says Khoury.

The telecoms sector is also coming into focus. Existing CCC assets include stakes in Yemen GSM operator Sabafone and Jordan Express. Its next move may well be into Saudi Arabia, where it is considering participation in the upcoming licensing round.

CCC has been looking for several years to add the GCC to its utility portfolio, which is currently centred on the Gaza independent power project (IPP) and the Al-Samra wastewater scheme in Jordan. However, it has still to make the big breakthrough. ‘We have been trying to make alliances [with developers]. The problem we have had is that we are a minority partner with 5-10 per cent and so we don’t have much influence. We haven’t given up, but we are reviewing our approach.’

The Gulf is also the focus for its latest diversification initiative, the establishment of a new regional crane leasing company, headquartered in Dubai. Under formation by a group of 10 regional contractors and investors led by CCC, the new venture will have a capital of about $100 million and expects to have in the first three years of operation about 400 cranes.

There are limits to the diversification drive, however. Two years ago, CCC established a new engineering and procurement division in Abu Dhabi, with the remit of providing services on the contractor’s large-scale subcontracts and bidding in its own right small-to-medium-sized EPC contracts of up to $100 million. D