ENGINEERING

Lebanon 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | B2B

With a construction sector slow to rebound and overcome political turmoil, Lebanese engineering leaders have their eyes on international projects, most notably preparing for the opportunity to re-enter and rebuild Syria.

Rodolphe Mattar
RODOLPHE MATTAR
General Manager
Bureau D’Études Rodolphe Mattar
Michel Zovighian
MICHEL ZOVIGHIAN
Chairman & CEO
Sehnaoui Plant

Where are you planning to open new markets?

RODOLPHE MATTAR Because we have been present on the construction scene for a while now, close to 40 years, and have developed over these years a good reputation and brand image, this has led us to work on the most important projects of the sector in Lebanon and abroad. We are still working on big projects in Lebanon, but currently the economic situation is not the best. We also have important projects outside Lebanon now with various famous architects; for example, we have successfully completed the design of a project consisting of four residential towers in Lusail, Qatar, and we are part of a multinational team that is doing the design of a museum also in Qatar, a big project with a special architectural design. We were asked to submit proposals for projects in Kazakhstan, and we are waiting for the opportunity to form partnerships there. Another prospect is Iran—we were asked to propose several projects there and look forward to the market potential. We also have some projects in Africa and Saudi Arabia. We used to have many projects in Syria and even in Iraq; all of that is on hold because of the situation in those countries, but we are optimistic that it will resume in time after the situation calms down. In Syria, we hope to have large projects because we know many developers and architects there and are familiar with the market.

MICHEL ZOVIGHIAN Sehnaoui Plant in Lebanon is over 20 years old. We began operations in Lebanon, then Iraq. The Iraq War forced us to shift operations, and we proceeded to expand in Qatar, Nigeria, Ghana, the UAE, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Next, our only point of interest, which we are preparing ourselves for, is Syria, primarily because we have a 30-year-old company there. We are already registered in the various ministries and we know the country well. I was the director of Schlumberger for four years in Damascus, so I know it will be the next place to be. However, our approach to entering Syria will be different than the way we approached other countries when we penetrated markets in previous years. It is difficult to compete in European markets because India, China, and Turkey are able to undercut our prices. But we have long-lasting relationships with European brands as well. So, our strategy is evolving into a two-tier approach, maintaining our European partnerships while also sourcing for other clients from other countries.

Do you have a particular product in your portfolio that sets you apart from other companies?

RM We attract and retain the best human talent. Many fresh graduates and top students from different universities seek employment in our firm first because they are keen to work on these interesting projects. Most of the engineers working in our office are still with us since they graduated from university; we have a great team that is professional, conscientious, and flexible. If we have to work extra, we do it because it is often the requirement of our projects.

MZ For the next five years, we will focus on precast concrete. If we want to provide the needed number of houses in low-income countries, we need to save on time. Even in Saudi Arabia, they need 1.5 million units today, so it is behind on providing housing. We can only save time by applying the precast technique because every time we want to go up one floor using traditional concrete we need to wait until the concrete cures, lengthening construction timelines. If we want to do things on a large scale and we want to do it fast, we need the precast industry. If Syria wants to bring in millions of people to reconstructed areas, it will need a strong precast concrete industry. For this reason, we believe precast is the future. The traditional way will always be there and will always grow, but the requirement of equipment for the precast segment of the business, and the forces of globalization, giving people access to buy things from anywhere in the world, will create an opportunity for the pre-cast concrete industry.