Greek builders stage comeback in the Gulf

Greece’s major construction companies are staging a major comeback in Persian Gulf countries, winning important contracts for numerous projects. Greek firms are currently involved in projects with a combined budget of 5.4 billion euros, which illustrates the great penetration they are gradually attaining in the rapidly developing economies of the Arab countries. The value of all projects in progress or planned in the Persian Gulf states exceeds a total of $2 trillion, or about 1.27 trillion euros. Over 760 billion euros concern building projects. The first wave of Greek construction in the Middle East took place in the 1970s, involving companies such as Archirodon, which benefited considerably from the first major investment in infrastructure in Gulf states. But the Greek presence was later reduced due to political instability and the oil crises of 1977 and 1979, when firms started pulling out of the region. Today, though, conditions are better than ever. Oil revenues are huge, having driven an unprecedented construction explosion. There are also much better profit margins than in the Greek market, where the competition and distortions that often occur constantly reduce the profits from projects. The larger Greek construction groups now have the experience and know-how to bid for important projects abroad, which rarely happened in the past. «Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are making great investments this period. The difference from the previous decades is that these moves are now much more targeted, while the economies of these states are far more mature,» commented Dimitris Kallitsantsis, CEO at the Aktor construction company, a member of the Hellenic Technodomiki group. «Furthermore, the developments in technology and telecommunications allow us to have a better monitoring of projects than in the past, and the improving infrastructures make our expansion in that region easier,» he told Kathimerini. In the last three years, Aktor has focused on securing contracts abroad, particularly in the Middle East, where it is currently carrying out projects totaling about 3 billion euros. Based on its participation in each project, its share amounts to 1.7 billion euros. The firm is also bidding for more projects in the Middle East, valued at over 3.2 billion euros. J&P-Avax also has a significant presence in the Middle East, using the size and know-how of major shareholder J&P Oversea, which has a key presence in the region. J&P-Avax participates in projects totaling 1.92 billion euros, with its share estimated at 572 million euros. Greece’s third construction group, GEK-Terna is also strengthening its presence in the region, announcing last week that it has secured three new projects of 275.8 million euros in total, while already having projects of 200 million euros under way.