Contractors vie for schemes worth $270bn

21 December 2023

Following one of the best years for project contract awards in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region in a decade, 2024 has a lot to live up to if it is to generate a similar amount of project activity. 

By mid-December, the value of contract awards in 2023 had exceeded $230bn and was just $10bn shy of the $240bn-worth of regional contract awards let in 2014 – the best year on record to date. It was also on track to exceed that record year, with $36bn of projects in bid evaluation and expected for award by year’s end.

Nevertheless, 2024 has the potential to be an even better year for the Mena projects markets than 2023, with more than $270bn-worth of projects in the bidding phase and either overdue, due for award in the final weeks of 2023 – at the mid-December mark – or set for award at some point during 2024.

On top of this significant value of projects in the bidding stage, the region also has an estimated $250bn-worth of work in the design phase, with project trajectories that could quite reasonably see the schemes proceed through the prequalification, tendering and main contract award phases within the next 12 months.

Of the $270bn of value in the bidding stage, $126bn is in bid evaluation, with the main contract imminently due for award. A further $67bn is at the bid submission stage and $77bn is at the prequalification stage.

Imminent awards

Among the projects that are in the bidding phase and due for award in 2024 are six projects worth $4bn or more – all of which are in the GCC, with three in the UAE and one in each of Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They include three oil and gas projects, two power plants and one transport scheme.

The largest project contract in both the bidding phase, and specifically bid evaluation, is the estimated $7bn scheme for the development of surface facilities as part of the UZ1000 expansion programme by the offshore arm of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc Offshore) at the UAE’s Upper Zakum oil field. 

Bids for the project have been submitted by the UK’s Petrofac, the local Target Engineering Construction Company and Spain’s Tecnicas Reunidas.

The next largest project in the bidding phase is the $6bn first package of the Duwaiheen nuclear power plant project, which entails the construction of two 2,800MW nuclear reactors on behalf of the Saudi special purpose vehicle Duwaiheen Nuclear Energy Company. Expected bidders include France’s EDF, China National Nuclear Corporation, Korea Electric Power Corporation and Russia’s Rosatom.

The third largest scheme, and one that is at the prequalification stage, is the estimated $4.8bn Blue Line for the Dubai Metro, tendered by the Roads & Transport Authority after the project was greenlit in November 2023. Expressions of interest for the 12-station line are being sought from three consortiums.

Close behind this is the $4.5bn Ruwais liquefied natural gas terminal, which is being tendered by Adnoc Gas Processing, and for which more than half a dozen companies have submitted bids.

In Kuwait, the $4bn combined phases two and three of Al-Zour North independent water and power project are being tendered by the Ministry of Electricity & Water via the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects. Five bidders have submitted prequalification documents for the scheme. 

Pending in Qatar, there is the $4bn phase two, scope D of works on the North Field production sustainability project, for which submissions to QatarEnergy LNG are due by the end of December.

Top markets

The country with the highest value of project work in the bidding phase – and more than double that of the next most active projects market – is Saudi Arabia, which alone has schemes worth $107bn. This includes $46.5bn-worth of work in bid evaluation, $34.3bn in bid submission and $26.4bn at the prequalification stage.

The work in Saudi Arabia is concentrated in the hands of several large clients, led by Saudi Aramco, which has $22bn-worth of work under bid, and Neom, which has $19bn of associated projects under bid. 

There is a further $8.6bn-worth of work associated with the four other official gigaprojects: Diriyah Gate, Qiddiya, the Red Sea Project and Roshn. There is also $7.7bn-worth of work in the bidding phase as part of the Saudi Power Procurement Company’s renewable energy programme.

The projects market with the second-largest value of imminently pending work is the UAE, with $51.5bn-worth of work under bid, including schemes worth about $30bn in bid evaluation. This work is led by the oil and gas sector, with $22.6bn of work being tendered by Adnoc Group. 

Elsewhere in the GCC, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have, respectively, $19.8bn, $17.9bn and $15.7bn of projects under bid. Overall, the GCC markets account for $216bn or 80 per cent of the $270bn total of work under bid, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone accounting for $159bn-worth of work, or 59 per cent of the total.

Close behind these markets is Algeria, which has $15.3bn-worth of schemes in the bidding phase, alongside lesser values in Egypt and Iraq, at $10.7bn and $7.7bn, respectively. There is then a further $24bn-worth of work under bid spread across the other countries in the Mena region.

Strongest sector

Segregated by industry, of the $270bn-worth of work in the bidding stage, there are: projects in the construction and transport sector worth a combined $97.7bn; schemes worth $97.6bn in the power, water and utilities sector; and programmes worth $74.8bn in energy industry.

This breaks down further into $53.1bn of transport projects, $44.6bn of construction projects, $59.7bn of power projects, $37.8bn of water projects, $32.9bn of gas projects, $29.2bn of oil projects, and $12.6bn of chemicals and other industrial schemes.

Top clients

The top 10 project clients in the region by value of projects currently in the bid stage account for $103bn or 38 per cent of the $270bn of total project value under bid. Out of this group of regional heavyweight project owners, five are Saudi entities: Saudi Aramco, Neom, Saudi Power Procurement Company (SPPC), Duwaiheen Nuclear Energy Company (DNEC) and Saudi Electricity Company (SEC).

The top project client outside of Saudi Arabia is the UAE’s Adnoc, which comes second only to Saudi Aramco in terms of the value of projects in the bidding stage. Adnoc is accompanied in its representation of the UAE in the ranking by Dubai’s Road & Transport Authority (RTA). 

The list is then rounded out by Algeria’s Sonelgaz and two Kuwaiti entities: Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (Kapp) and Kuwait Oil Company (KOC).

Both Saudi Aramco and Adnoc have more than $20bn-worth of projects under bid, followed closely by Neom, which has $17.6bn-worth of projects across its constituent masterplans, led by Oxagon, Trojena and The Line. 

The three Saudi utilities sector clients, SPPC, DNEC and SEC, then have $7.3bn, $6.5bn and $6.3bn under bid, respectively. Sonelgaz is close behind, with $6.2bn under bid, followed by Kapp, the RTA and KOC, with $6bn, $5.4bn and $4.9bn, respectively, under bid.

The line-up reflects the broader pattern of a strong concentration of project activity in the Mena region within the GCC, and especially within Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as the pre-eminent GCC projects markets. 

 Top pending projects in 2024 (to be published on 27 Dec 2023)

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John Bambridge
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