Amec looks to Gulf for rapid growth

Amec, the London-listed engineering firm, is pushing for aggressive growth in the Gulf by diversifying away from its traditional focus on oil and gas.

The Amec chief executive Samir Brikho believes the company can double its business and personnel in the Middle East in just a couple of years as it looks to expand into new sectors. Christopher Pike / The National
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Amec, the London-listed engineering firm, is pushing for aggressive growth in the Arabian Gulf by diversifying from its traditional focus on oil and gas.

The company's presence in the region's hydrocarbon sector includes its involvement in boosting Abu Dhabi's crude output at the massive Upper Zakum offshore field. It is now seeking to expand into sectors such as power generation and mining.

"The Middle East is one of the regions in which we see and forecast that we will be able to double the business every couple of years," said Samir Brikho, Amec's chief executive.

Mr Brikho also believes that doubling personnel every two years is possible in the Gulf.

Amec employs almost 1,000 people in the region. About 300 of these work in Abu Dhabi, which serves as a regional headquarters. Some 29,000 staff work for the company worldwide.

Business in the "growth regions", or all countries outside North America and Europe, today accounts for 16 per cent of total revenue, said Mr Brikho.

Amec's biggest market in the Gulf is Kuwait, where the engineering company enjoys a long-standing relationship with the national oil company, while Saudi Arabia represents a big potential prize.

The kingdom presents the perfect opportunity for Amec to win contracts in the sectors where it wants to expand: mining, infrastructure and power generation, with a heavy emphasis on renewable energy.

The country is home to a nascent mining sector that is supplying raw materials to its growing industrial base.

At the same time, the government is spending heavily on social housing and boosting electricity supply, including an ambitious solar power programme. "We were only pushing one sector in the market," said Mr Brikho. "Today we are focusing on four sectors."

In the UAE, Amec's activities centre on Abu Dhabi's offshore oil production. The company has been working with Zakum Development Company (Zadco) to prepare the Upper Zakum field for an increase in production from 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 750,000 bpd. The project is part of the efforts to increase Abu Dhabi's production from 3 million bpd to 3.5 million by 2017.

The front-end engineering and design (feed) work (a technical term for the work that is done pre-construction) is complete, and Zadco awarded the first of two big construction contracts to a consortium of Technip and National Petroleum Construction Company earlier this year.

Zadco is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and ExxonMobil. With construction imminent, Amec's involvement at Upper Zakum will now shift from engineering and design to a project management role.

The engineering firm is also watching developments in the natural gas sector with interest. Gas is the main feedstock for power plants in the Gulf, and a large increase in electricity usage creates the need for ever-larger amounts of the hydrocarbon.

Faced with a squeeze, GCC countries have sought creative solutions and unconventional sources of gas are being tapped. Abu Dhabi, for example, has taken to developing its sour gas resources, a task made complicated by the heavy sulphur content in the gas.

Mr Brikho believes that his company has something to offer to countries in need of sophisticated extraction techniques.

"About 17 per cent of [Amec's global business] is in unconventional oil and gas, so this is very interesting to us," he said.