Big Interview: Saad Al Tayer

EFECO CEO talks partnerships and expansion

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INTERVIEWS, MEP

Saad Al Taher, CEO of EFECO (Emirates Falcon Electromechnical Company), says the plan for the company in the coming years is to achieve significant growth. From a financial point of view EFECO, which is owned by Arabtec Holding, expects to boost its revenues by around 30-40% on last year’s sum of AED634.7m ($172.8m). While on the strategic side, geographical expansion is very much on the agenda.

Al Taher says teaming up with the right kind of main contractors will be integral to hitting growth targets. Not that this hasn’t been so in the past, but the 2008/09 financial crisis has naturally made everyone more cautious over whom they do business with.

“This is the ABC of our business. I believe that transparency is the best way. At the end of the day, we are working under the umbrella of the main contractor so it is very important to work with organised main contractors,” adds Al Taher.

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“Not a lot of MEP contractors survived during the last few years. So in general, anybody we are working with, we want them to be interested in working with us again. We are trying to have a win-win relationship with the main contractor.”

Up until 2008 EFECO was based solely in Dubai but has since expanded into Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It is now looking at further geographical growth.

“Now we are trying to have business in Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and North Africa, specifically Morocco and Egypt. You can expedite but you have to grow gradually in any new market,” says Al Taher. “So even if you think there will be big projects after a few years, you have to start even in smaller projects in that area.”

EFECO is participating in tenders for airport expansion projects in Bahrain and Sharm El-Sheikh, while it previously bid in Kuwait. However, the future of the Kuwait project is currently up in the air after it was reported in February that all bids to build a new terminal at the country's international airport were rejected by the public works ministry. “Moving into any new market is a risk, obviously. But we also think we have the experience, so why not expand and apply that same experience and systems to other markets?” says Al Taher.

Since expanding into Qatar EFECO has signed contracts on a number of projects.

Working under main contractor UrbaCon, it recently completed the fit out of the Sheraton Doha Resort and Convention Hotel along with Radiant. Before that it worked under Arabtec Construction on World Trade Centre Doha. Situated in the main business district area directly on the Doha Corniche, the development consists of a commercial office tower supported on a four-level podium that contains the heart of the World Trade Centre.

EFECO is also working under Arabtec Construction on Twin Towers for Sheikh Khaled Bin Hamad Al Thani. The project comprises of two buildings, with two basement levels, a ground level, three podium levels and 45-floor office tower and 45-floor, five-star hotel tower. Furthermore, is has started a new job with Al Ai Contracting on a resort project in Salwa.

Commenting on what opportunities the 2022 FIFA World Cup could present for EFECO, Al Taher says: “We are in support and communication with many contractors who are involved in these stadiums.”

In Saudi Arabia, EFECO is working under Arabtec Saudi Arabia on a residential project in Dahran for Saudi Aramco. The job is being completed over a 28-month period and covers the design, construction, completion and maintenance of hundreds of villas and associated external work. Elsewhere in the Kingdom, it is working on a villas project for the Saudi Arabian National Guard in Al Hasa, King Saud University in Riyadh and Golden Tower in Jeddah.

“We are trying to have the right number of resources to be able to serve the country,” says Al Tayer, before noting that obtaining work visas is a challenge in the Kingdom.

In EFECO’s home market of the UAE, it is looking to consolidate on the MEP work it has picked up over the last 18 months. This includes DIFC Central Park District, a national housing project in Al Barsha and the Terminal 2 refurbishment at Dubai International Airport.

Current projects include the new Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Emaar Properties’ Reem development (Mira Community) in Dubailand, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (ADNOC) Ruwais housing complex expansion (phase four), and the Palazzo Versace Dubai.

Al Tayer expects to complete the projects with ADNOC, the Midfield Terminal and Palazzo Versace Dubai within the next 12 months, which will bring in more than AED1.517bn ($413m). There is also a design and build aeroplane maintenance hangers project being undertaken in a joint venture with SEMCO in Al Ain for Mubadala.

“Finishing these projects will be the single biggest opportunity for EFECO over the next 12 months,” says Al Tayer.

EFECO’s biggest ongoing project in terms of contract value is the AED1.1bn ($299m) MEP works on the Abu Dhabi Plaza in Kazakhstan. The Alder Properties scheme comprises of a retail podium, residential apartments, international grade office accommodation, and leisure facilities. Completion is expected in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“I’m optimistic about 2016,” says Al Taher. “We are interested in moving into new markets and new sectors and linking with a few good main contractors. This will give us more opportunities to win more work.”

Consequently, with Al Tayer expecting extra work to come EFECO’s way, he cites recruiting qualified staff as a major challenge over the next year. Internally, EFECO is pushing through a number of key training objectives for existing staff including training on using Causeway, Oracle and BIM software.

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