This week, Dubai-based Arabtec Construction was preparing to start on its first project in Europe: the AED10bn ($2.7bn) Okhta Centre in St Petersburg, Russia.
Overseas expansion is nothing new for Gulf companies in other sectors. While Arabtec was celebrating its win, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayam, chairman of Dubai-based port operator DP World, was in Peru for the start of construction on a container terminal near Lima.
But construction firms have until now tended to restrict themselves to projects in the region. That is changing as the expertise they have gained in their home markets becomes more sought after beyond the Gulf.
The iconic nature of tall towers means that cities around the world are increasingly looking to them as a way to establish themselves. When searching for firms with the relevant experience to help them, the Gulf is an obvious place to start.
Arabtec’s win in St Petersburg is a sign that the region is now beginning to take the lead when it comes to high-rise buildings. It could be just the start. The leading building contractors in the Gulf are being approached for projects in Europe and Asia, and many will take the opportunity to diversify their client base and risk exposure by taking on opportunities in new markets.
The region’s expertise does not stop at high-rise. Over the past five years, airports, offshore islands, vast mixed-use developments, bridges, metro systems and canals have all been built.
While new projects in the Gulf could keep most companies busy for years to come, contractors now have an opportunity to make their mark on a far bigger scale.