Abu Dhabi giant bounces back


Following a multibillion-dollar restructuring, Al Jaber Group has become the UAE’s most active construction company, winning more work than any other GCC contractor in 2014


At the start of 2014, few would have predicted which construction company would win the most work by the end of the year. Swamped with billions of dollars of debts from the pre-2009 construction boom, Al Jaber Group had been struggling to win new work, leading some in the industry to question whether the Abu Dhabi-based contractor would even survive heading into 2015.

Improving fortunes

After struggling to pay its debts since 2010, Al Jaber Group’s fortunes finally turned in July, when it concluded a multibillion-dollar debt restructuring. The group did not disclose the final amount of debt, but it is thought to be about $4.5bn.

By the end of the year, Al Jaber Group had secured more than $2bn of new orders in the UAE, making it the most active contrac-tor in that market during 2014, as well as winning work in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The new orders firmly re-establish the group as one of the region’s construction giants and the dominant player in Abu Dhabi’s construction market after its position was challenged in recent years by the local Arabtec Construction when Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments took control of that company. Abu Dhabi awards

In the UAE, Al Jaber Group’s main wins came from work in Abu Dhabi. The largest order was a $700m contract to build married staff accommodation buildings in Ruwais for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

Also in Abu Dhabi, the contractor won deals totalling $558m for two packages on the Mafraq-Ghuweifat highway scheme running through the Western Region of the emirate. These major awards were joined by a string of contract awards secured by Dubai-based ALEC, which is part of the Al Jaber Group and specialises in hotels, airports and towers.

At the end of last year, the firm was awarded a $408m deal to build a Bulgari hotel for local developer Meraas. The two-year contract involves building a resort on Jumeirah Bay Island off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Road, which has been designed to resemble a seahorse. The hotel will feature 100 rooms and suites in the main buildings, as well as 20 hotel villas. The total built-up area is about 140,000 square metres. ALEC wins

ALEC was also awarded the estimated $326m deal to build the Wharf retail component of the Bluewaters scheme that is being built off Dubai’s coast close to Jumeirah Beach Residences. The shopping area will have two large parking basements and about 50,000 sq m of retail space.

In addition, ALEC won the contract to build the first tower of The Residences project at the Marina Gate development in Dubai, the first of two tower contracts that it will be awarded by the local Select Group. The development consists of three luxury residential towers with a retail area. The 28-month deal, which is scheduled to commence in March, involves the construction of the first tower, with the second of the three towers planned to start construction four to five months later.

Completing the top three most active contractors for winning new work in the UAE during 2014 are Lebanon’s Arabian Construc-tion Company, with $1.6bn of contract awards, and Beijing-based China State Construction Engineering Corporation, with $1.2bn.

Interestingly, Arabtec Construction did not feature in the top 10 for the UAE despite signing an agreement in February with Aabar Investments for the design and build of 37 towers across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The deal, which is expected to be worth AED22bn ($6bn), has not moved beyond the memorandum of understanding stage.