What are UCC Holding's highlights in 2020, and how have you been preparing for the resumption of activities during Covid-19 time?
It was obviously a tough year, but we enjoyed some landmark project wins. We are building two residential projects comprising of tens of thousands of units of accommodation in Al-Wakra, just south of Doha, for Barwa Real Estate. This transforms us from being a contractor of the region's most beautiful buildings, such as THE e18hteen tower in Lusail, to a contractor of whole cities. UCC Holding has also diversified into oil and gas, winning our first work in that sector with Shell Qatar and its liquefied natural gas site in Ras Laffan, 50 miles to the north of Doha. We were named as Qatar's overall country winner at the British Safety Council's International Safety Awards. We adopted that safety-led approach at all levels, from management downward, so we could keep working for our clients and protect our staff throughout the pandemic.
What will the market look like once the current big wave of developments is over?
We expect plenty more growth after the World Cup, particularly in infrastructure, hospitality, education and healthcare. Qatar is diversifying from its dependence on the oil market as part of Qatar National Vision 2030. Construction will play a huge part in that broadened economy, with major developments confirming Qatar as the new jewel of the Middle East.
How do your different companies and divisions cooperate to provide all services within the value chain?
We operate as one group, offering specialized services and skills, covering an extensive range of industries. To deliver the best service for our clients, while ensuring competitiveness in a tough marketplace, our companies work together to maximize efficiency. As well as offering cost advantages, this collaborative approach encourages the sharing of new ideas and best practice. Together, we are self-reliant and function as a one-stop shop, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
How will the adoption of digital technologies and innovations improve your environmental footprint in the medium-term?
We are a partner of the Lean Construction Institute-Qatar—the first of its kind in the region—and an affiliate member of Gulf Organization for Research and Development. We are implementing Lean thinking across all our companies and workforce, which will minimize waste while maximizing productivity and quality.
How do you expect the PPP Law and the new model of cooperation between Qatar's authorities and private companies to boost your participation in the important developments of the country?
UCC Holding welcomes the PPP Law—it is a step towards deepening the economic diversification in Qatar and an important growth area for the company. The new law will free up development land, attract the private investment we need to maintain Qatar's economic momentum, and foster a spirit of partnership that will see risk and reward shared between the contractor and the state.
What are the strategic priorities of UCC Holding for 2021?
We are focused and determined to build on our recent successes in 2021. Across our companies, we will concentrate on delivering with quality, efficiency, and a renewed focus to address some project backlogs stemming from the pandemic delays. The requirement for health and safety excellence, further intensified by the pandemic, will remain a priority across all our project sites. We are looking to expand locally in oil and gas and secure some more international projects, particularly in Africa. Projects relating to the great expansion of tourism, education, and real estate will continue to dominate the construction sector in Qatar, and we are ready to work on them.