SETTING A HIGH BAR

Abu Dhabi 2019 | URBAN PLANNING, REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sami Asad, CEO of Pivot, on the benefits of Dubai's real estate sector, incorporating technological innovations, and the importance of healthy competition.

 Sami Asad
BIOGRAPHY
Sami Asad has over 33 years of executive management experience in the development and construction industries. In 2015, he was appointed CEO of Pivot Engineering and General Contracting Company. He is responsible for spearheading the company’s development in terms of structure, systems, and procedures, ensuring all company operations allow for the effective and efficient delivery of projects whilst securing high returns for shareholders. Prior to this, he was CEO of Arabtec Construction as well as Aldar Properties, where he led an extensive team to ensure successful delivery of mega projects, including the 25-sqkm Yas Island—a major mixed-use development which includes the Formula One Grand Prix Racetrack and supporting facilities.

How have the company's priorities shifted over time?

Pivot has been in the market since the late 1970s and is 100% owned by UAE nationals, with 65% owned by Aldar alone. Although we have considered exploring opportunities abroad, we mostly work within the UAE, with most of our projects in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. At present, we have projects worth over AED2.5 billion in our backlog. We are selective of our clients, and do not deal with anyone until we make sure a prospective client has the financial capability to fulfill the project. In the past, the majority of our operations were in Abu Dhabi; however, with the current market situation we are shifting more toward Dubai. Recently, we closed two big projects in Abu Dhabi, namely Mussafa Gardens Residential Tower and Saraya Tower. At present, we only have one project in Abu Dhabi, with Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC). In Dubai, we have ongoing projects such as malls and hotels with Emaar, Dubai Properties, and numerous private individuals. Previously we completed villa projects with Damac in Dubai and are now bidding for more similar projects with Nishmi, Deyyar, and Dubai South. In general, Dubai offers more business in terms of villas and high-rise buildings. For example, we recently completed two big projects for Emirati housing, each one comprising 1,000 villas. Pivot will continue to build housing projects, no matter if they are villas or high-rise buildings.

What would you define as your competitive advantage?

Our advantage is that we not only work as contractors, but also have mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) services. That gives us an advantage because we have more control construction elements and can always have competitive prices in MEP. Equally important, we have great support from our shareholders and board. The company has excellent liquidity levels and great banking facilities, which opens more doors to quality projects.

How do you look at sustainability when approaching a new project?

We have a five-year plan that is rolling, so we update it every year to cope with developments in the country and industry. Our growth vehicle is not our own; sometimes we enter into joint ventures (JVs). For example, in Saadiyat we have a JV with San Jose, a Spanish company. We are building Mamsha al Saadiyat, a AED1.25-billion project. We have built several projects in line with the standards set under the Estadama program. Today, Pearl-1 is the minimum level for any building, but Pivot has several buildings with Pearl 2 and 3 standards in its portfolio; we focus on energy conservation and savings to improve the overall quality of life. Being cost conscious, environmentally conscious, and introducing technological innovations is key in our line of business.

What do you see for Pivot in the coming years?

Under current market conditions, our main challenge is high competition. Hopefully, the number of quality projects will increase and filter out the competition. Then, we can have better opportunities and better margins to operate with. If the market doesn't change in the near future, a number of good contractors will disappear from the market. The market has changed immensely; in the past there were not enough contractors bidding on projects, forcing developers to urge companies to make a bid. With that in mind, it is important to maintain healthy competition in the market. In a mature market, a developer always opts to give time and space to the contractor to work and earn a decent profit. In short, healthy competition is always welcome.