Special skills are the secret of success

16 February 1996

BENELUX-based construction and consultancy companies have particular strengths in sectors that range from agro-industry and energy to hydraulic engineering and transportation. Many are active across the Middle East and North Africa and regard the region as a market of particular value to their operations. Below is a survey of some recent corporate activities in the area:


Besix and its local subsidiary Six Construct is main contractor for the massive Taweelah B power and desalination project in Abu Dhabi. Six Construct Abu Dhabi's recent orders also include a project to repair and strengthen the Mussafab bridge.

Besix has made inroads into Egypt, opening a Cairo office following the award of the El-Salaam syphon contract and consolidating its position with a $73 million contract, awarded to Besix and the local Orascom, for construction of the Cairo Conrad Hotel on the east bank of the Nile.

Other work under way includes taking over the management contracts for a resort in Hurghada and hotel construction in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Six Construct remains a leading international contractor in the UAE and Qatar.

Work under way also includes a $71 million contract signed in July 1994 for the Adma Opco/Adgas building in Abu Dhabi, the $17 million Ras Abu Fontas B offshore civils package and a $12 million Doha port quay wall project. Yet, 1995 was a disappointment after a particularly strong performance in 1994 as the order intake fell.

Dredging International is based in Zwijndrecht but has a UAE office. It reports work on Damman, Jeddah and Yanbu ports in Saudi Arabia and the Suez canal Jan de Nul worked on dredging in Qatar for the Ras Lafan LNG port and now has a contract for dredging and backfilling at the Pakistan navy's Ormara naval base.

Smits Engineering opened its Abu Dhabi office in 1989 and has since won a flow of contracts in the UAF, including the design of a $35 million fruit and vegetable processing plant in Abu Dhabi and a dateprocessing complex at Al-Ain Soberi International is now focusing on aircraft maintenance. Recent contracts include a study commissioned by Royal Air Maroc for the turnkey construction of a maintenance hangar.

Tractebel is consultant for the Taweelab B project in Abu Dhabi which has now entered start-up phase. This is 'progressing as normal', says Tractebel Engineering's area marketing manager Michel Mauchard.

Full start up is expected in mid-1997. 'Abu Dhabi and Dubai are our most important markets in the region, although we are marketing in Oman and Qatar with a view to future work,' Mauchard says. In Oman Tractebel is the sponsor and developer of the Manab power project, the first independent power project in the sultanate, which is now under construction.

Tractebel is consultant on the Abu Dhabi Public Works Department's Great Mosque project, although progress has been set back by a decision to retender the project.

Tractebel also has an order for the consultancy and construction of storage and pumping facilities for three desalination plants in the northern emirates for the UAE's Water & Electricity Ministry, and is looking for more work to consolidate its position in the UAE.

Tractebel has a contract for dams studies in Algeria, secured through its Coyne & Belher subsidiary. It also has work in Morocco and Tunisia. 'We are looking at the prospects for doing business in Libya but as yet we are doing nothing - - if the Libyans can chose a project that will work properly and it doesn't conflict with sanctions regulations we will jump at it,' Muchard says.


Guardian Europe has a joint venture float glass plant project with National Company for Glass Industries (Zoujaj) and other Saudi investors.

The Netherlands

Ballast Nedam has maintained its strong position in the Saudi market. Ongoing contracts include a $11.2 million order for design, construction and interior decoration of a six-storey office building in Riyadh for Al-Daleel Investment & Trading Company.

Grenco is working in Iran under a $1.1 million contract to set up a 5,000-tonne cold store in the north-west at Khakkal, financed from the World Bank's earthquake reconstruction programme.

Haskoning Royal Dutch Engineers & Architects is leading an international consortium preparing a World Bank-financed national water study for Morocco.

Haskoning won the award under the banner of the Netherlands Engineering Consultants (NEDECO) consortium and is partnered by local and Swiss consultants.

HVA International provides turnkey agricultural services, with a focus on Saudi Arabia (MEED 26:5:95, Special Report Netherlands). New business is limited, but farm management and training contracts continue.

In Iran HVA has been working on plans for seven large-scale integrated sugar mills although progress has been delayed. 'We are seeing the Iranians soon, but so far there are no new developments, only gossip,' says technical manager Emile van der Speck.

Interbeton is responding to tough competition by focusing on specialist projects, particularly marine works with high levels of engineering input. It is working on offshore civils work, subcontracted by Uhde, for the Qatar Fertiliser Company (Qafco) expansion project. Interbeton has a presence in Oman and the UAE, but no contracts at present. In Libya, it recently completed the civils contracts for ABB for four new power stations and is also doing some tank maintenance work.

Interbeton is focusing on subcontracting work at several major gas projects, including the LNG projects at Ras Laffan in Qatar and the Oman LNG project. It is also looking at MTBE/methanol projects sponsored by Qatar Fuel Additives Company and Qatar Clean Energy Company, The company is expected to bid for other marine schemes, including work for Adnoc and the Mussafah dredging project in Abu Dhabi.

NEDECO remains active across the region on projects ranging from management of Lebanon's reconstruction to building coastal protection for Sheikh Mohamed Al-Maktoum's palace in Dubai.

New projects involving Nedeco member companies include development of the AlHomayera marina in the Gulf of Aqaba, the Ras Abu Soma project and other tourism schemes in Egypt. NEDECO has opened a Rabat office to consolidate its position in Morocco, the source of a steady flow of contracts.

'Egypt is a very lively place with a lot of action backed by official development aid and Egyptian government agencies,' says NEDECO's managing director Adriaan van Riemsdyk. Agriculture, rural development and drainage are all growth sectors, he says. 'We also see potential in Palestine and Israel, and when peace develops further there will be more opportunities in the region,' van Riemsdyk adds.

Philips Medical Systems is the Dutch electronics giant's most established division in the Middle East (MEED 23:4:93, Special Report Netherlands). Recent orders include a $1.6 million contract to supply a magnetic resonance imaging machine to Sharjah's AlZahra.

Tebodin is the consultant for the expansion and modernisation of two pumping stations in Abu Dhabi and is installing firefighting equipment at five power and desalination plants around the emirate for the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Department (WED). Middle East manager Age de Vries says Tebodin increased its business in 1995 with project awards from local oil companies and WED.

Expansion in Dubai is a goal. 'We have had some successes in Dubai but it is on a modest scale,' says De Vries. 'We have had some small orders which have gone quite well and we hope we can build on those in the Jebel Ali Free Zone and the contacts we are developing with the Dubai Ports Authority.' Tebodin is eyeing opportunities in Qatar and Oman but a relatively full order book in the UAE means that these markets are not yet a priority. De Vries expects business volumes to be the same or slightly higher this year. Many of the miscellaneous works will be moving into construction so the volume of supervision work will rise.

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