Global players keen on UAE market

The current lull in the global property and construction market is pushing several industry players, especially contracting companies, to enter the GCC, and the UAE in particular, in search of better opportunities. According to industry experts, more than a hundred new companies from Europe and the United States are currently looking for opportunities to either start operations or tie-up with business partners in the UAE. « Dubai has enough work for the next five years and in Abu Dhabi things are just beginning to take off. We were not present in a major way in the UAE market until now. But even now we feel it is not too late, » said a representative of ANMOPYC, the Spanish Manufacturers’ Association of Construction and Mining Equipment. Participation in forthcoming industry exhibitions such as Big 5 PMV will be an indicator of interest and opportunities in the Gulf. If this year’s attendance at Big 5 PMV is any indication, the number of international participants has more than doubled compared to 2007. Meanwhile about 30 senior executives from Irish construction companies met in Dubai last week as part of an Enterprise Ireland initiative to help them internationalise their businesses. Construction industry in the US and most of Europe has significantly slowed down. South Korea last week said it would spend about $4 billion (Dh14.69bn) to prop up its construction industry. The UAE has so far managed to avoid any major signs of slowdown being witnessed in other parts of the world and companies are hoping that the boom in the construction industry would continue unaffected. Several exhibitors during the recently concluded Conmex 2008 in Sharjah told Emirates Business that for the next 10 years the construction industry in the UAE would continue to grow unaffected. According to them the UAE is expected to withstand the current liquidity crunch. Participants at the Enterprise Ireland initiative included Tom Costello, Managing Director of contracting firm John Sisk & Son, and Finn Lyden, Chief Executive of Siac Construction, besides several heads of architectural, engineering, surveying and interiors companies. According to reports, Liam O’Donohoe, head of leadership development at Enterprise Ireland, said the scheme was designed to help companies expand their business outside Ireland and to enable them to work together to secure projects. According to Nick Webb, Director of Streamline Marketing Group, organiser of Big 5 PMV, of the 300 global and 53 local firms participating in this year’s exhibition, 241 are attending for the first time. « A lot of these companies are looking for new opportunities here, wanting to do business, » he said. More exhibitors from the concrete production sector at Big 5 PMV is an indication of growing construction activity in the region. According to Webb countries such as Spain never looked to enter overseas markets as the local industry was performing well. « They are not happy any more and are now keen on overseas expansion. Although the actual number of Spanish companies participating in Big 5 PMV is less compared to other European countries, with 89 per cent Spain stands first, » he added. The number of Italian companies has increased from 38 in 2007 to 81 in 2008 while Chinese participation rose from 24 to 82. According to the French Trade Commission, there is a growing tendency for local real estate developers and contractors to award design and build contracts to French companies, enticing many firms to increase their presence in the UAE. Pascal Roger of the French Trade Commission said: « While French equipment and building material suppliers have been present in the UAE for some time, there is a large influx of French contractors coming now. This is due to changing market conditions in France as a result of increased tax rates and the effects of the economic slowdown. French construction groups are keen to work in the UAE and the region. » By Joseph George