Construction step change boosts order books

29 April 2024

Using data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects, the region’s most active contractor is Nesma & Partners, with $14.7bn of work at the execution stage. In 2023, the Saudi Arabia-based contractor topped the ranking with $5.3bn of work in execution, a total that would not even make the top 10 this year. Dubai-based Alec ranks 10th this year with $6bn of work under execution.

Five Saudi-based contractors are in the top 10, reflecting the volume of construction work under way in the kingdom. Four of them are the contractors that the Public Investment Fund (PIF) invested in – Al Bawani, Almabani, El Seif and Nesma. The other is Shibh Al Jazira Contracting. 

Two UAE-based companies, Trojan General Contracting and Alec, are in the top 10. While not as active as Saudi Arabia, the UAE market remains a crucial construction market, even though it is increasingly dominated by contractors with government or government-related shareholders.

The other three contractors are Turkiye’s Limak, which is working extensively in Kuwait; Italy’s Webuild, which has won a series of major orders in Saudi Arabia in the past three years; and Beijing-based China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), which works across the GCC and is the world’s third most active contractor, according to GlobalData’s ranking of global construction companies.

Volume of work

With a clear shift in the volume of work being undertaken, only five of the companies from 2023 remain in the top 10 this year. They are Nesma, Limak, Almabani, Webuild and CSCEC. Dropping out the top 10 are Saudi Arabia’s Alfanar Construction, Saudi Binladin Group – which was consistently the region’s most active contractor for many years – India’s Shapooorji Pallonji, Beijing-based China Harbour Engineering Corporation and Saudi Arabian Baytur. 

With large contracts still being tendered in Saudi Arabia, it is likely that there will also be significant changes to next year’s ranking. The four contractors that the PIF invested in will likely continue to dominate, while other players will also look to take advantage of the work available in the kingdom and move up the rankings.

With large contracts still being tendered in Saudi Arabia, it is likely that there will also be significant changes to next year’s ranking

This will include other local players, as Shibh Al Jazira has demonstrated in 2024, and international companies that are looking to build their order books – just as Webuild has done in recent years. 

As contractors pick up more work, there are nascent concerns that you can have too much of a good thing. Companies that grow rapidly become more difficult to manage and experience has shown that when markets correct, organisations that tempered their ambitions are more manageable and resilient, and are the ones more likely to survive.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s contractor ranking has remained largely static this year. The top two contractors have not changed and only one company has joined the top 10 this year.

China Machinery Engineering Corporation maintains its lead position with $698m of work in the execution phase, thanks to its contract to build the East Sitra development for the housing ministry. Al Hamad Building Contracting is in second place, with $560m-worth of projects in the execution phase. 

Nass Contracting is in third place, having moved up from fifth last year. Kooheji Contractor, which was ranked third last year, is now fourth. 

The rest of the ranking remains largely the same, with Saleh Abdullah Al Muhanna & Partners replacing Al Taitoon Contracting in the top 10.

The relative lack of change to the Bahraini ranking reflects the quiet market conditions in the country when compared to the larger GCC markets. 

This is largely due to major projects such as the new terminal building at Bahrain International airport having been completed and tendering and contract awards not yet having started for major new projects, including the first phase of the Bahrain metro network and the second causeway connecting to Saudi Arabia. 

Kuwait

Turkiye’s Limak Holding has strengthened its position at the top of Kuwait’s ranking this year. The contractor has $5.6bn of construction work at the execution stage, according to MEED Projects. This is about $600m more than the $5bn it had when it headed the 2023 ranking. 

Limak’s work in execution was boosted last year when the Public Works Ministry awarded it more construction work at Kuwait International airport. It secured a contract for package three of the expansion of Terminal 2, which covers the construction of aircraft parking aprons, taxiways and service buildings.

In joint second place is Shapoorji Pallonji with $1.4bn of work at the execution stage. The Indian contractor is working on two healthcare projects and one education scheme in a joint venture with the local Al Sager General Trading & Contracting, which is also working on $1.4bn of projects at the execution stage.

The only other non-Kuwaiti contractor in the top 10 is China Gezhouba Group Corporation, which is in fourth place with $1.3bn of projects at the execution stage. Its largest project is the infrastructure works at South Saad Al Abdullah Residential City.

Oman

The local Galfar Engineering & Contracting remains at the top of the Oman ranking in 2024, with about $900m of construction and transport projects at the execution stage, according to MEED Projects. The contractor’s total is slightly less than the $1.1bn it recorded last year. 

Several key changes have occurred in the Omani top 10 this year. Local contractor Saif Salim Essa Al Harasi & Company has moved into fourth place thanks to several major contract awards. 

In December last year, it secured a $118m contract for the construction of a hospital, and in October it was awarded a design-and-build contract for a cultural complex. The cultural complex was won as part of a joint venture with Turkish contractor Sembol Construction, which has also moved into the top 10 in seventh position.

Another contractor that has moved into Oman’s top 10 is China Communications Construction Company. In January, it secured a marine works contract at the Yiti Sustainable City project.

Qatar

Two contractors top the Qatar ranking in 2024 with $1.4bn of ongoing projects each. Turkish contractor TAV Construction and the local Midmac Contracting Company both lead, largely due to their ongoing work at Hamad International airport. 

Closely behind, in third position, is the local Generic Engineering Technologies, which is working on several projects in Qatar, including the upgrade of the Lusail Formula 1 and MotoGP race circuit.

Urbacon Trading & Contracting, which topped last year’s ranking with $1.8bn of projects at the execution stage, is in fifth place this year with $1.2bn of projects. The contractor has taken significant strides in the past year to win work in other markets, including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia

There has been a major shift in the level of construction activity undertaken by the 10 most active contractors in Saudi Arabia in 2024. 

This year, the total value of projects undertaken by the top 10 contractors is $71.5bn, more than a 130% increase from the $31bn recorded by the top 10 in 2023.

The local Nesma & Partners tops the Saudi ranking again this year with $14.7bn-worth of projects at the execution stage. The total, which is about 50% more than that of the second-ranked contractor, highlights Nesma’s leading position in the Saudi market, and the scale of the opportunities that the kingdom’s projects sector now offers. 

In second position is Italy’s Webuild with just short of $10bn of projects at the execution stage. Earlier this year, it secured a $4.7bn contract to construct dams at the Trojena mountain resort in Neom, adding to other major orders at Neom and Diriyah. 

The four contractors that received investment from the PIF in 2023 now occupy four out of the top six positions in the
Saudi Ranking. They are Nesma, El Seif, Al Bawani and Almabani.

UAE

The UAE’s construction market has grown strongly over the past year, and this is reflected in the 2024 contractor ranking. Like Saudi Arabia, the top 10 UAE contractors have more than doubled the total value of projects they have at the execution stage. This year, the top 10 have $27.6bn of work, which is a 123% increase from the $12.4bn last year.

The top-ranked contractor in the UAE this year is Trojan General Contracting, which is part of Alpha Dhabi. In April, Alpha Dhabi Holding agreed to sell a 49% stake in its construction subsidiary Alpha Dhabi Construction Holding (ADCH) to local investment firm ADQ. Trojan is part of ADCH.

With $6.2bn of projects at the execution stage, Trojan is ahead of National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC), which has $3.1bn of work. NMDC topped last year’s ranking with $2.3bn of projects. 

In third place is UK-headquartered Innovo, with $3bn of projects, followed by Dubai-based Alec with $2.6bn.

Contractors need to grow quickly to maintain their rankings. Al Amry Transport & General Contracting has moved down to fifth place from fourth, even though it more than doubled the value of its projects at the execution stage. China State Construction Engineering Corporation has also dropped in the ranking, from third to sixth place, despite increasing its value of projects to $2.4bn from $1.6bn.

 

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Colin Foreman
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