SUCCESS STORY

Abu Dhabi 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sami Sidawi, Chairman of Al Nasr Contracting Company, on its achievements in the sector, a commitment to quality, and his assessment of the market.

Sami Sidawi
BIOGRAPHY
Sami Sidawi received his bachelor's in civil engineering from American University of Beirut in 1964. From 1965-1968, he worked for Matta Engineering Design in Lebanon and established with two partners Engineering Design Office, a consulting firm in Beirut. He later became the representative and UAE Area Manager of Eternit SAL of Lebanon in Abu Dhabi. In 1973 he established Al Nasr Irrigation & Contracting Co, which became Al Nasr Contracting Co. in the UAE. He remains the Chairman of the company.

What have been the milestones for the company and how would you assess Al Nar's development over recent years?

We began operations in 1973 with a range of infrastructure projects across the UAE. We were a family-owned company, but are currently in the process of implementing a shared ownership arrangement for the key people in the company, ensuring a fruitful future for the entity. Over our 43 years of history we have been growing slowly but surely to become a leader in the contracting sector covering a large spectrum of areas. We have developed projects in the water, electricity, sewerage, street lighting, and fiber-optic areas, as well as in-house engineering and procurement. Al Nasr has become a one-stop shop for companies looking for high-quality engineering services and this is what plays to our advantage.

How has Al Nasr structured its business model over these last four decades?

We have structured ourselves as a self-sufficient entity for every job we do. We have been pioneers in the sub-sectors we cater for, such as water, and therefore did not need to depend on someone else to fulfill our projects. This has proven to be a quality that has played in our favor, as we have not been forced to rely on third parties. Al Nasr's business model is an in-house model. Our clients know and acknowledge this model and know that we are quality-driven, even if that means committing part of our profits for the sake of delivering a project on time.

How has your background as one of the first UAE-based contracting companies served your expansion plans and how have you contributed to the maturing of engineering services in this country?

Being a UAE-based company opens many doors for contracting and engineering companies such as Al Nasr. We have been blessed with the path we have embarked on in this country, and we have been part of some of the most iconic projects in Abu Dhabi, such as Yas Island, Khalifa Port, Al Raha Beach, and the Al Ain Stadium, among others. We execute highly technical construction projects that would be rendered challenging by most contracting companies due to the complexity of their development. On top of that, the UAE has advanced enormously in its rules and regulations, permit systems, and infrastructure developments. It is no exaggeration to state that we are spoiled in such a developed market and we are proud to be part of it and to promote the UAE brand in the region.

What is your assessment of the current state of the market and how is this situation impacting Al Nasr?

The market has been going through an interesting spiral of ups and downs, and we see it as a matter of survival of the fittest. The most competitive companies have been able to overcome this period while others have perished in the process; at the end, this will generate a healthier market with only quality players operating in it. We believe that by end-2017 this restructuring process will finish and we will see a revamp in the market. I see a bright long-term future for the UAE.

What have been your experiences operating projects outside of the UAE and how do opportunities in neighboring markets fare against those present in the UAE?

Having a long-standing history of successful projects in the UAE has been one of our strongest platforms to move outside the country; however, for now we have decided to return to our roots and operate solely from the UAE. The process, however, has been anything but easy. We have started projects in other GCC nations but the processes are slow, obstacles are great, and the experiences have not always been pleasant. It is for that reason that we have decided to remain local and would rather invest in our operations here to increase our share in the Emirati market.