From his office in Abu Dhabi, Ian Clarke follows the growing number of potential project opportunities in the region a task that has become a major project in its own right. 'I wanted to print out a prospect tracker for projects in the Gulf,' says the Middle East director of UK-based engineering consultant Mott MacDonald. 'But then I decided not to print out 250 pages.'
Few markets offer greater potential for the employee-owned company than the Middle East, and in particular, the Gulf. Underpinned by three years of high oil revenues, governments across the GCC have embarked on a wave of development initiatives to transform their economies, including the modernisation of their infrastructure to world-class standards and through encouraging greater private sector participation. The result is an unprecedented flow of projects across the region. But it is not only the growing volume of projects that makes the region so attractive to Clarke. The increasingly diverse and challenging nature of the projects being undertaken in the region offer a multitude of opportunities for multidisciplinary firms such as Mott MacDonald, which employs 9,000 staff around the world, and which is able to undertake a wide variety of tasks from feasibility studies to advisory, engineering design, project management, procurement, site construction monitoring and commissioning. And with the Gulf countries developing on all fronts, the firm, which has been operating in the region for more than five decades, is also able to venture into sectors that previously offered little or no opportunities. 'We have a number of service offerings, which historically were not developed to a major extent in the Gulf,' says Clarke. 'Buildings, energy, water and project management have tended to be our strongest offerings. But with the development of railway systems, the expansions of airports, ports, tunnels and bridges, these have also become of interest. Areas we are looking to further develop in the region are the health sector, environmental services, communications and media. And we are keeping an open mind on education, where we would be interested in government advice and regulation.' Traditionally, Mott MacDonald's core markets in the Middle East have been the GCC countries, notably Oman, Qatar and the UAE, where it has developed long-standing client relationships. The growing importance of these markets is also reflected in their rising contribution to the firm's overall turnover of £515 million ($900 million) in 2005. 'The Gulf in terms of turnover has typically been anywhere between 5 to 8 per cent of our total,' says Clarke. 'For the foreseeable future, I suspect that this will grow to 10 per cent.' The region's buoyant building construction market has offered plenty of opportunity for engineers and consultants. In Dubai, which sits at the heart of the construction drive, Mott MacDonald has added several landmark projects to its reference list. On the $200 million first phase of the massive Dubai Marina scheme developed by the local Emaar Properties, the company acted as lead engineer to the Canadian office of architects HOK of the US. Earlier this year, Mott completed structural engineering services on another Dubai landmark: the massive Mall of the Emirates scheme, best known for its indoor skiing and developed by the local Majid al-Futtaim Group of Companies. In April, Mott MacDonald was appointed by Dubai-based property developer Nakheel to provide engineering consultancy services on the estimated $135 million Jumeirah Golf Estates project. The firm has also been heavily involved in the GCC power sector and left its mark on several private power schemes. In Abu Dhabi, the firm acted as owner's engineer to Emirates CMS Power Company, a joint venture of Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and the US' CMS Energy, on the emirate's first independent wate