REACHING THE SKIES

Dubai 2018 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Yu Tao, President & CEO of China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC), on building high-rise buildings, changing perceptions, and tackling challenges in the GCC market.

Yu Tao
BIOGRAPHY
Yu Tao was appointed President and CEO of CSCEC (Middle East) in September 2004 and was subsequently appointed Vice President of China State Construction International, the world’s largest international construction company. He holds a master’s in project management from the National University of Singapore and a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Chongqing University in China. He has over 20 years of overseas experience in corporate affairs and construction projects. Previously, he was chairman of Chinese Business Council in the UAE from 2008–2010 and held several positions between 1994 and 2004 at China Construction (South Pacific), a subsidiary of CSCEC in Singapore.

How did 2017 turn out for CSCEC?

It has been a busy year for us; the company has expanded for the past three years, and we have signed a number of projects in the GCC and Africa. Ensuring projects delivery is of paramount importance to us, as is ensuring safety, quality, and timely delivery. Despite facing all kinds of different challenges, we feel proud to satisfy our clients in all fields. We have reinforced our market share throughout the region and have received great feedback from clients, boosting our confidence and commitment to provide even better products.

What are the typical market characteristics that clients can expect from CSCEC?

Clients in Dubai are generally demanding and expect top quality. Years ago, at the beginning of our operations in the Middle East, we had to spend hours to convince our clients we could provide the quality they needed. However, now our track record over the years is the best evidence for clients to feel confident they will get the best quality. Moreover, clients expect projects to be delivered on time; delays are a big risk for clients and banks that fund these projects. We try hard to deliver projects on time, despite challenges from heat and humidity in summer to cultural factors like Ramadan and working hour restrictions. We stick to our schedule and program to deliver on schedule.

Has there been a shift in the perception of Chinese companies and their products and services in the market?

Chinese companies were considered to deliver cheap and low-quality products. Now, that perception has changed. Good quality products and services from China are now considered to be worth their price. We use a lot of local resources in our company. More than 92% of our workforce is from other nationalities and only 8% is Chinese. We purchase our materials in the local market whenever it qualifies, not because it is a Chinese product. Being the number one contractor has given us huge bargaining power, which comes in handy to get a better rate.

How is CSCEC staying ahead in terms of innovation in the construction industry?

We at CSCEC have built more than 90% of high-rise buildings in China—buildings higher than 300m—and 50% of these buildings are more than 500m tall. We have the expertise, experience, and the latest technology to build such buildings. As one of the world's leading construction companies, we have spent a lot of resources and funds on R&D. Five years ago, our headquarters set up a separate fund to study high-rise buildings taller than 1,000m. In 2018, we are in the running to build such buildings. Every year we open new projects and improve from year to year, and R&D is critical to be able to do this. China is developing rapidly today in terms of new technology development and applications. For example, we use BIM technology and have spent a lot of money on developing this and other new technologies to stay ahead of the competition. Right now, we are building the longest sea bridge in China, linking Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland.

What are your expectations for the AED8-billion Motor City project with Union Property?

We are delighted to have signed the MoU for this project with Union Property, an old partner with whom we have worked for years. It wants us to get involved early enough in the master plan to get the most out of our experience and enable it to create the best design for the project. The master plan of Motor City will take a few years and will have a few phases, so we can also help with financing the project if needed by bringing in Chinese or international banks. Also, the Motor City master plan is such a big project that it requires a company that can take on a broad and complex range of tasks and operations, and CSCEC is well-equiped to be that company.