TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE

Dubai 2016 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Yu Tao, President & CEO of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (Middle East), on potential projects, doing business in Dubai, and the challenges the company has faced.

Yu Tao
BIOGRAPHY
Yu Tao was appointed as the Managing Director of China State Construction Engineering Corporation in September 2004 and was subsequently appointed Vice President of China State Construction Engineering Ltd. Overseas Operations, the largest transnational construction company in the developing world and the top home builder in the world. Tao holds a master’s degree in project management from the National University of Singapore and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Chongqing University in China.

What achievements do you feel most proud of at the moment?

We have many achievements in many different areas. First of all, the company keeps on growing; as a top contractor, we have our core business in the construction and infrastructure sector, and in both sectors we aim for the biggest projects in the region. One example is the Kuwait Airport terminal tender, which is probably the biggest single building project in the Middle East or even in the world. In the infrastructure sector we are challenging for the Etihad railway, which is a good indicator of our strength. We are present in three other main areas, one of which is steel structures.

How would you assess the development of the Dubai Viceroy Hotel project?

The project was designed and run by our partner SKAI Holding. We have a joint venture with SKAI Holding, which is a minority shareholder. We believe this is very interesting and the perfect arrangement for us to join hands and align our interests. SKAI Holding has great experience of the local market, and it understands the appetite of the buyers. In the financial hub we are also doing well and we have just recently finished syndication, which is a reflection of the trust that the financial sector has in us. Quite a few major banks in the world joined this syndication, which includes ICBC, Bank of China, and quite a few other Chinese banks like Minsheng Bank. With the successful closure of the project financing, all our development is well supported financially so we can now focus on the construction and try to finish as early as we can.

What can you tell us about the status of the Sheikh Zayed Road flyover?

We have two current projects on the Sheikh Zayed Road. One is access to Dubai Park, which is not a big project but is very challenging because the client has only given us 14 months to finish. We are doing well so far and need to spend more effort to finish the project on time. We are looking at maybe a one-year timeframe. Our team works day and night and tries to keep up with our program. In relation to the flyover, we have recently commenced the 2.5 bridge in between the second and third bridges. This is a sizable interchange to improve the traffic on both sides. The project started in 3Q2015 and we would like to continue with the same kind of commitment to our most respectable client out here, and be sure that we finish the project within the given timeframe with the highest standards possible. We can take on the challenge together. Generally the project is doing well and is on track.

What would you consider to be the biggest challenges in the real estate and construction sector in Dubai?

The main challenges come from different angles; challenges pertaining to the complexity of a project and technical challenges such as those related to the Abu Dhabi Airport project. On one hand, clients often lack experience, while on the other consultants are not always sure how to address complexities on the technical side. As specialists we try to cope with demanding programs, so the key is commitment. Clients themselves have commitments, which is why we like to work on government projects as it has made the budgets available and its priority is getting projects finished as quickly as possible. I am glad that when we encountered huge challenges with the Abu Dhabi International Airport project, we had great clients and consultants who allowed us to work out a solution together. Another key factor is trust. Without the trust from our clients and partners, we can easily ruin a relationship. It is crucial that all parties have confidence and trust for mistakes to be addressed and corrected.