Can you give us a brief background of the achievements of the past year before COVID-19 hit the sector?
One of the most important achievements of our company is the finalization of the Neom Airport project in a short period of six months. An empty runway has been converted to a Category 1 international airport on a small scale. At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 before COVID-19, we were awarded two large-scale projects to execute at King Abdullah Financial District where the G20 was planned.
What is your opinion of the current economic climate and reality for the construction sector in Saudi Arabia?
The pandemic is worldwide, and the impact on daily life and business is something that no one could have predicted. It has many different impacts that we are facing and experiencing, and the situation is extremely dynamic and fluid, making it difficult to make plans. We are one of the fortunate companies, as we've managed our company during this extraordinary crisis as well as we could. We have around 7,000 employees and have only faced 33 cases as of date. Our clients have been extremely proactive, and although we have had curfews and work stoppages, we were not greatly affected. The global supply chain has been affected by the situation, so we are starting to see delays in supplies. Because of the health and safety measures, work efficiency has been affected, and we are still working on a mitigation plan to get over this situation.
What is your current split between public and private contracts, and what are your targets for the future?
With our current contracts, it became 20/80; because of the new large contracts that we were awarded are public. The last two contracts we signed were with King Abdullah Financial District Management and Development Company, which is under the Public Investment Fund. In the short term, it looks like the public sector will be more prevalent.
How are the mega and giga projects shaping the country's construction sector, and which projects are you working on?
During the pandemic, we started to receive many enquiries and are currently bidding for Diriyah Gate development in Riyadh and quoting for smaller projects in Al Ula and the Red Sea. As a company, we are prequalified and present in all the new developments. We are extremely hopeful about these projects, which should be a dynamo for the economy in the short to mid-term. These investments are essential for the ongoing targets of 2030.
What practices did you develop in your previous projects to create a greener future?
Our founding partner Baytur Construction Company is the first Turkish contractor to receive an ISO certification. When we established our company here by following the culture and procedures of our founding partner, we immediately set up all our environmental and health and safety measures as our basics. We have a fairly good health and safety track record, and thanks to our procedures and experienced personnel, our staff has accepted this as a company culture. In 2019, we executed a military project for the Royal Saudi Airforce in Tabuk in partnership with an American company and we received the National Safety Award from the United States for that project. We benefited from this culture during the pandemic, which reduced its impact significantly. For environmental, we are one of the few companies certified by ISO 45001, and each project has its own requirements. For the airport project that we executed in Neom, there were strict environmental requirements as it is an untouched area. In our company, we take many precautions and procedures as a rule of thumb, and we grow our experience with such a company culture. For example, we have been working at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology for four years with 2,000 laborers on a daily basis, which is almost equivalent to the population of the university. We have a great environmental and health and safety track record there and we have received appreciation from the KAUST administration.
What are your short-term goals to lead the company out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-term targets for 2021?
Our main short-term target is to maintain our organization as it is today and continue to keep our staff safe, secure, and healthy. We hope this difficult period will be starting to ease gradually, and we will learn how to live with the virus. Companies will start to adapt, which will bring a big movement in business, as what was lost needs to be recovered. The mid- to long-term target, therefore, will be to maintain and boost our activity via upcoming opportunities.