Saudi gigaprojects propel construction sector

8 March 2024

Latest news on Saudi Arabia’s construction sector:

Saudi’s Ceer and MBL confirm electric car plant deal
Dogus and Aces sign Saudi data centres deal
Four Seasons to develop Red Sea hotel

Neom appoints architect for Gidori
Qiddiya unveils Speed Park racetrack
Foster & Partners wins 2km-tall tower
PIF firm tenders Jeddah mixed-use project
> Saudi Arabia’s The Rig signs project agreement


Following one of the best years for project contract awards in Saudi Arabia, 2024 has so far lived up to expectations, with contracts worth over $8bn awarded in the kingdom’s construction sector in the first two months.

The majority of these awards are for work on the gigaprojects programme, which is backed by Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

In early January, Italian contractor WeBuild secured a record-breaking $4.7bn contract to construct three dams that will create a lake at the centre of the Trojena mountain resort, located within the Neom gigaproject.

The project has an aggressive delivery schedule because the lake – and the surrounding resort and ski slopes – must be ready for the Asian Winter Games in 2029.

Many of Saudi Arabia’s projects have event-driven deadlines and will have to be prioritised and delivered on time.

For example, in February a joint venture of Belgian contractor Besix and local Albawani was awarded an estimated SR3.7bn ($1bn) contract to build a new football stadium in Dammam. The facility will host international tournaments such as the 2027 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup and the 2034 Fifa World Cup.

Major 2024 awards

The other significant contract awards so far this year include a $1.8bn contract by Jeddah Central Development Company (JCDC) for the construction of Jeddah Central Stadium and an estimated SR4.6bn ($1.2bn) contract by Saudi electric car manufacturer Ceer to build its first electric vehicle production plant at King Abdullah Economic City on the kingdom’s Red Sea coast.

JCDC and local contractor Modern Building Leaders also signed two major contracts worth a combined $900m to build an opera house and an oceanarium in the first phase of the Jeddah Central project.

In January, Qiddiya Investment Company also awarded a SR1.8bn ($480m) contract for the construction of a racetrack and associated infrastructure at the Speed Park at the Qiddiya entertainment city gigaproject.

Looking ahead, contract activity is set to continue for both the gigaprojects and the broader Saudi market. According to data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects, schemes worth $56bn are in the bidding phase in the construction sector and are due for imminent award.

Major construction schemes for all five of the official gigaprojects are in the advanced stages. These include Neom’s $8bn community housing public-private partnership (PPP) programme and $6.4bn of construction work at the port at Oxagon.

The other schemes under negotiation include completing the remaining works on what will be the world’s tallest tower. Contractors were allowed until the end of February to submit their bids for the Jeddah Tower.

The market is also awaiting the tender for a contract to build the Mukaab district, the centrepiece of the New Murabba development in Riyadh. The estimated $5.5bn package will encompass the construction works on the Mukaab structure and the surrounding podium areas, covering about 1.7 million square metres.

The other significant gigaprojects-related schemes due for procurement in the coming months include the development of the Superblock Five cluster at Rua Al Madinah, which covers the construction of 18 hotels, and developing an offshore tourism destination in the Gulf called The Rig.

The market will be supported by the announcement that Saudi Arabia will host Expo 2030 in Riyadh. The kingdom has also emerged as the sole bidder to host the 2034 Fifa World Cup, in addition to the AFC Asian Cup in 2027, the Asian Winter Games in 2029 and the Asian Games in 2034.

Burgeoning opportunities

Amid subdued activity elsewhere in the broader GCC region, the kingdom’s construction market has become the prime target for local and international contractors, with its thousands of project packages in the pipeline expected to drive project spending and opportunities for many years to come.

Regional and international contractors are also expected to continue supporting the construction pipeline, while PPP-structured deals are likely to increase as the country’s burgeoning project expenditures and need for financing outstrip the PIF’s capacity.

As the activity ramps up in the country, bigger questions remain: how will Saudi Arabia deliver all of these projects, and does it have a big enough workforce with sufficient expertise to do so?

The PIF’s move to establish national champions in the contracting sector, capable of delivering its giant schemes, was the first step in the process, with the investment of $1.3bn in four local construction companies in February last year. This year, the PIF and National Infrastructure Fund (Infra) have created a construction finance programme to improve contractors’ cash flows and help the industry to deliver projects more effectively.

The changes under way in the Saudi construction sector are truly seismic. All the available assets in the sector – and more – will need to come together to realise the country’s 2030 project ambitions.
Yasir Iqbal
Related Articles
  • Facility E nears 25 July bid deadline

    19 July 2024


    The tender closing date of 25 July remains unchanged for the contract to develop and operate Qatar’s Facility E independent water and power producer (IWPP) project.

    At least one developer team is highly likely to submit a proposal to develop the gas-fired plant, sources close to the project tell MEED.

    Qatar state utility General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) had previously extended the tender closing date for the contract in response to developers’ requests, as MEED reported.

    The Facility E IWPP scheme will have a power generation capacity of 2,300MW and a water desalination capacity of 100 million imperial gallons a day (MIGD).

    “We hear that at least one consortium is being formed … others are preparing proposals, but appear unsure if they will ultimately submit them or not,” a source close to the project told MEED in November last year. 

    Kahramaa initially expected to receive bids on 14 December 2023.

    The contract to develop the Facility E IWPP was first tendered in 2019. The three teams that submitted bids for the contract in August 2020 were:   

    • Engie (France) / Mitsui (Japan) / Yonden (Shikoku Electric, Japan)
    • Sumitomo / Kansai Electric (Japan)
    • Marubeni / Kyushu Electric (Japan)

    The original plan was for the Facility E IWPP to have a power generation capacity of about 2,300MW and a desalination component of 100MIGD once fully operational.

    However, the project owner revised the power plant’s design capacity to 2,600MW and sought alternative prices from bidders. 

    Kahramaa eventually cancelled and reissued the tender in September 2023. The current tender entails a power generation plant with the same capacity as initially tendered in 2019.

    MEED understands that the new target commercial operation date for the Facility E IWPP project has been moved to 2027. 

    The state utility’s transaction advisory team includes UK-headquartered PwC and Clyde & Co as financial and legal advisers, respectively, led by Belgrade-headquartered Energoprojekt as technical adviser.

    Facility E is Qatar’s fifth IWPP scheme. Completed and operational IWPPs include three projects in Ras Laffan – known as Facilities A, B and C – and Facility D in Umm Al-Houl.

    Awarded in 2015 and completed in 2018, Facility D was developed by a Japanese consortium of Mitsubishi Corporation and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). South Korea's Samsung C&T was the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Masdar’s second bond issue raises $1bn

    19 July 2024

    Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) has raised $1bn through its second bond issuance under its Green Finance Framework.

    The announcement comes one year after the company’s first successful issuance of $750m on the International Securities Market of the London Stock Exchange.

    Masdar said the issuance comprises dual tranches of $500m each, with tenors of five and 10 years and coupons of 4.875% and 5.25%, respectively.

    It said there was strong appetite from regional and international investors, with the order book peaking at $4.6bn – 4.6 times oversubscribed.

    The company finalised the allocation with an average split of 70% to international investors and 30% to Middle East and North Africa investors.

    The $1bn proceeds from the issuance will be deployed to fund Masdar’s equity commitments on new greenfield projects, including several in developing economies, as the company pursues a target portfolio capacity of 100GW by 2030.

    In line with Masdar’s corporate credit ratings, the second issuance was rated AA- by Fitch and A2 by Moody’s.

    First Abu Dhabi Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Credit Agricole CIB, Natixis and MUFG were the lead managers and bookrunners on the issuance.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Firms seek to prequalify for 12 Saudi water projects

    18 July 2024


    Local and international utility developers have submitted their statements of qualifications (SOQs) for the contracts to develop and operate 12 water public-private partnership (PPP) projects in Saudi Arabia. 

    State-backed offtaker Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) received separate responses from companies for five independent water projects (IWPs) and seven independent sewage treatment plant (ISTP) projects by 4 July, industry sources tell MEED.

    Local and regional companies, in addition to Japanese, Spanish, French and Chinese utility developers, are understood to have sought to prequalify to bid for the contracts, which are set to be tendered in 2024-26. 

    SWPC's shift from a single-project to a multiple-project prequalification process saves time and resources, according to one of the companies that submitted an SOQ.

    "This is particularly true for international developers, which need to allocate resources across various geographies," the source said.

    Another source said he believes SWPC will prequalify companies for lead and technical roles, among others, and then allow these companies to form teams at a later stage.  

    The client previously said that the programme "will provide the opportunity to local and international developers to obtain pre-qualification approval and receive the request for proposal documents for its future projects … without the need to submit a separate qualification application for each project".

    The five IWP schemes have a total combined capacity of 1.7 million cubic metres a day (cm/d). The seven ISTP projects have a total combined capacity of 700,000 cm/d.

    The kingdom's water sector has been undergoing a restructuring programme, with the capacity procurement process linked to the National Water Strategy being undertaken by three other clients: Saline Water Conversion Company, which has been renamed Saudi Water Authority; Water Transmission & Technologies Company; and the National Water Company.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Nama appoints 2027-29 procurement advisers

    18 July 2024


    Oman's Nama Power & Water Procurement (Nama PWP) has appointed a transaction advisory team to support its 2027-29 power and water procurement strategy.

    According to an industry source, the team comprises UK-headquartered Deloitte as lead transaction and financial adviser, Canada-based engineering consultancy WSP as technical adviser, and US firm CMS as legal adviser.

    The scope of work won by the advisory team includes preparing the overall procurement strategy, extending existing contracts expiring between 2027 and 2029, and undertaking procurement for new-build plants.

    The contracts for three independent power projects (IPPs) in Oman with a total combined capacity of 3,518MW are expiring between 2028 and 2029, according to the state offtaker's latest Seven-Year Planning Statement, which covers the years 2023 to 2029.

    These gas-fired plants and their power generation capacities are:

    • Barka 3 IPP: 750MW (2028)
    • Sohar 3 IPP: 750MW (2028)
    • Sur IPP: 2,018MW (2029)

    Phoenix Power Company, the project company for the 2,018MW Sur IPP, comprises Japan's Marubeni Corporation and Jera and Qatar's Nebras Power. 

    Shinas Generating Company – owned by Saudi Arabia's Acwa Power, Japan's Mitsui and China's Didic – is the project company for Sohar 3.

    Al-Suwaidi Power is the project company for Barka 3. It comprises France's Engie, Japan's Shikoku Electric and the local Suhail Bahwan Group.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • UAE keen to start next nuclear plant phase

    18 July 2024

    The UAE government could start the tendering process this year for the state's next nuclear power plant, located in Abu Dhabi, according to a Reuters report citing a senior UAE government official.

    According to the report, Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said: "The government is looking at this option. No final decision has been made in terms of the tender process but I can tell you that the government is actively exploring this option."

    The government has yet to budget for a second power plant or decide on the size or location of such a project, but Alkaabi said it is possible a tender could be issued this year, the report added.

    A significant increase in electricity use over the next decade, driven by population growth and an expanding industrial sector, underpins the plan to proceed with the next phase of the state's civilian nuclear power programme.

    Any new power plant would likely consist of two or four reactors, said Alkaabi, who also serves as the deputy chairman of the board of management of the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.

    The next phase of the Barakah power plant, comprising reactors five to eight, has been in the planning stage since 2019, according to regional projects tracker MEED Projects.

    The UAE became the first Arab state to operate a nuclear power plant when the first of the four reactors at Abu Dhabi’s Barakah nuclear power plant became operational in 2021.

    Each of the four reactors at the Barakah nuclear power plant can produce 1,400MW of electricity.

    Three of the plant’s four reactors are operational. Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation's operating and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, completed the loading of fuel assemblies into Unit 4 in December 2023. 

    Unit 4 will raise the Barakah plant’s total clean electricity generation capacity to 5,600MW, equivalent to 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs.

    Korea Power Corporation is the prime contractor for the $24.4bn first phase of the Barakah nuclear power plant.

    GlobalData expects nuclear power capacity in the Middle East and North Africa region to grow from zero in 2020 to an estimated 7.1GW by 2030, mainly thanks to Abu Dhabi’s Barakah nuclear energy plant and the first reactors of Egypt’s El-Dabaa nuclear power plant.

    The UAE is one of more than 20 countries that committed to tripling global nuclear energy capacity by 2050 at the UN climate change summit Cop28, which was held in Dubai in late 2023.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo