Consultancy market on course for strong growth

Arabian Gulf and UAE consultancy markets need more sector-wise focus, says a report.

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The regional consultancy market is expected to overcome the wave of consolidation sweeping over the global industry this year with Arabian Gulf-based advisers poised to grow by some 20 per cent.

The Gulf consultancy market had a turnover of about US$1.9 billion (Dh6.97bn) last year, and is expected to grow at 20 per cent this year, according to the 2013 GCC Consulting Market Report.

The UAE is the second-largest regional market at $553 million after Saudi Arabia at $791m. Qatar was third at $232m. The UAE market grew at 12 per cent year on year in 2012.

But consultants needed to offer clients more industry specialisms, said Fiona Czerniawska, the joint managing director of Source Information Services in London that published the report. "There are not many consultancies that focus on a specific sector. This is true across the world but the shortage here is much more huge. They must allow [their] people to specialise in a particular industry."

The consultancy market grew 34 per cent in Saudi and 14 per cent in Qatar last year. The Saudi and Qatari markets are expected to grow by 20 per cent this year, whereas the UAE market is expected to grow more modestly at 5 to 10 per cent riding on resurgent government spending in Abu Dhabi. But the figures are far higher than in Europe, the report said.

Multimillion-dollar transformation projects that are coming on line should be the target, Ms Czerniawska said on the sidelines of the launch of the GCC report in Dubai yesterday. The report looks at big consulting companies, such as the Big Four that comprises KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"The consultancy firms need to turn up world-class expertise in several sectors, and to have international networks," Ms Czerniawska said.

Competition in the Emirates, however, is acute. There are at least 100 consultancies in the UAE with more than 50 people, besides several small companies, according to Source Information Services. The region's pubic sector is one of the major users of consultancies.

Last year, Source identified the Arabian Gulf and within it Saudi Arabia and Qatar as the hot spots of the consultancy market, as government spending on infrastructure fuelled growth.

"It is quite interesting to know the market size, and get an indication of where it is going," said Marc Nassim, the head of clients and markets for financial advisory services for the Middle East at Deloitte, based in Dubai.

Globally the consultancy market is expected to be headed for more consolidations in the next two years. In January, Deloitte acquired the American strategy consulting firm Monitor for $116m.

"This is a world where big firms would become bigger," Ms Czerniawska said.