The GCC construction market has split into three tiers in 2011, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading the regional projects market for new construction and infrastructure awards.

The UAE awarded $8.6bn of contracts, which was almost the same as Saudi Arabia, which awarded $8.5bn of deals.

GCC construction and infrastructure awards
  Value ($ bn) Largest contract ($bn) Number of projects
Bahrain 0.728 0.25 7
Kuwait 4.1 1.2 20
Oman 0.702 0.6 13
Qatar 4.2 1.648 20
Saudi Arabia 8.5 2 63
UAE 8.6 2.4 55
Source: MEED; MEED Projects

Following the top tier, is a second tier made up of Kuwait and Qatar. Like the top tier only $100m separates the two countries. Qatar awarded $4.2bn of contracts and Kuwait signed $4.1bn of deals.

The third tier is made up of the two remaining countries, Bahrain and Oman. Bahrain awarded $728m of contracts closely followed by Oman with $702m of awards.

The largest single contracts in each market were awarded by government agencies. Since the regional property market collapse that began in late 2008 state firms have dominated the construction market as governments continue to develop vital infrastructure projects.

Typically these projects can be split into three broad categories. The first is transport, which includes ports, airports, roads and railways. The second is power and water, which includes power and desalination plants, sewage treatment plants, and distribution networks. The third is social infrastructure, which includes schools hospitals and universities.

The largest deal in the GCC was in Abu Dhabi in the UAE, where $2.4bn of infrastructure work was awarded for the South Shamkha housing development.  

In Saudi Arabia, the largest contract was a $2bn deal for work on the first phase of the Haramain rail project. In Qatar, the largest contract let was the excavation works for the New Doha Port Project. In Kuwait, the Al-Zour South power plant was the largest contract awarded; in Oman a $600m temporary power contract was the largest award; and in Bahrain, the largest deal was the $250m award on the Muharraq waste water treatment plant.

For deal volume Saudi Arabia was the most active market. The kingdom awarded 64 contracts that were worth more than $50m. The UAE was not far behind with 55 contract awards, elsewhere Qatar and Kuwait both had 20 each, Oman 13, and Bahrain seven.  

Looking ahead contractors expect the third quarter of this year to be slow for contract awards. The summer months of July and August are traditionally quiet as key decision-makers are normally travelling and not signing off on contracts.

After the holy month of Ramadan, which this year will be in August, there could be an upswing in the number of contracts awards, although most expect reduced activity through the rest of the third and fourth quarters when compared to the first half of the year.