Bechtel to move regional headquarters to Riyadh

Contractor already runs Saudi Arabia's National Programme Management Organisation

Construction company Bechtel is moving its Middle East headquarters to Riyadh, the company's president Brendan Bechtel said.

The company, which has a long history in the kingdom, is currently part of a consortium building two lines of the Riyadh Metro and is working on the futuristic Neom project. It also runs Saudi Arabia's National Programme Management Organisation, known as Mashroat.

"We're incredibly proud to be a partner on the Neom effort. In conjunction with that, and because of the opportunity that we see in the kingdom, I'm excited to announce now that we're moving Bechtel's regional headquarters to Riyadh," Mr Bechtel said.

"This is building on our 75-plus years of partnership in the kingdom and we're really excited about the opportunity for infrastructure investment, and innovative infrastructure investment, for many years to come.

Bechtel is ranked as the biggest contractor in the US by Engineering News Record. The family-owned company earned $21.8 billion of revenue in 2019, the most recent year for which figures are available, and had a project backlog of $38.3bn. It currently has a regional engineering centre of excellence in Dubai.

Last week, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced plans for major investment into Riyadh in a bid to make it one of the top 10 city economies in the world. The plans involve doubling the size of its economy and its population within 10 years - from 7.5 million currently to north of 15 million.

The kingdom's capital currently generates 50 per cent of its non-oil economy. The cost of creating jobs and developing infrastructure is about 30 per cent less expensive there than in other parts of the kingdom, the Crown Prince said.

Plans involve the creation of at least five new Special Economic Zones, out of 20 planned for the kingdom, and a park three times the size of New York's Central Park.

"For those who say, how can you grow and double the size of the economy and the population in just 10 years, Riyadh's done it 60 times over the past six decades," Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, told the Future Investment Initiativesummit. "Riyadh is used to this hyper growth and has been built for it."

Saudi Arabia "needs to catch up" in terms of infrastructure development, Mohamed Alabbar, managing director of Emaar Properties, told the event.

He said the private sector will have "a critical role" to play in infrastructure development given the Covid-19 pandemic and the pressure on government budgets.

"I really think the private sector will play such a critical role. Not only because they have the ability to fund, but because they are able to be efficient," Mr Alabbar said.

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