Construction in Abu Dhabi takes hit


By Kevin Brass

Construction delays in Abu Dhabi are crimping the earnings of regional construction companies, which had hoped work in the capital would replace revenue lost from cutbacks in Dubai.

Atkins, the UK engineering and design company, works on the Dubai Metro. EPA
Atkins, the UK engineering and design company, works on the Dubai Metro. EPA

The Middle Eastern division of Atkins, the UK engineering and design company working on the Dubai Metro and the Etihad Rail line, pointed to “a slowdown in the release of projects” in Abu Dhabi when it reported yesterday a 3.7 per cent drop in profit for the first half of its fiscal year.

Atkins’s revenue in the Middle East increased 10.9 per cent to £78.2 million (Dh452m) for the six-month period ending September 30 compared with the same period last year. But operating profit fell to £7.8m from £8.1m for the six-month period.

Several large projects in Abu Dhabi, including the Zayed National and the Guggenheim museums on Saadiyat Island, have recently been delayed.

“While certain programmes are being reviewed [in Abu Dhabi], I am confident Abu Dhabi is going to remain a strong market for us in the future,” said Richard Barrett, the managing director of Atkins’s office in the Middle East.

The company’s Abu Dhabi projects include the water park on Yas Island, the Central Market, the headquarters for the International Petroleum Investment Company and the Rocco Forte Hotel.

“We are fortunate that we have several long-term projects” in Abu Dhabi, Mr Barrett said.

“Those projects are doing well. I do not have concerns.”

In its public filing, the company reported “making some progress with our outstanding-debt recovery across the region”.

Many construction companies have reported problems getting paid, particularly for delayed projects in the UAE.

Mr Barrett declined to discuss how much Atkins was owed.

The company also reported that its profit had been hurt by “more onerous contract payment terms on some of our current government and infrastructure work”. The Middle East division’s operating margin shrank 1.5 per cent from a year earlier to 10 per cent.

“It’s a client’s, buyer’s market worldwide,” Mr Barrett said.

“The payment terms are slightly longer than we enjoyed in the boom times of property.”

The company has been diversifying its operation in the Middle East, Mr Barrett said. Its staff in the region has grown 8.1 per cent in the past year to 1,770 employees. More info