Joint venture bags $113m Ashgal contract

John Williams of EC Harris tells The Big Project about the multi-million dollar contract and working in partnership with Mace

As far as projects go, Qatar’s current building program is probably one of the largest and highest profile in the world and last month a joint venture of EC Harris and Mace signed a contract with Qatar’s Public Works Authority, Ashghal, worth an estimated $113million over five years for the program management of social infrastructure building projects across the Gulf state.

Under the 50/50 venture both companies will deploy their highest ranking experts to undertake all program management activities for the planning, procurement and management of design, supervision and construction contracts for projects that will span education, healthcare, ports and waterfront developments, public tourism facilities, public sports and assembly facilities and recreational facilities.

“The reason we brought our two companies together for this specific opportunity is that, in partnership, we have a formidable and un-paralleled track record in delivering the breadth of asset types which make up the Ashghal portfolio,” explains EC Harris Middle East regional leader, John Williams.

“We have a tried, tested and very successful long term relationship with Mace which gives us phenomenal capacity and expertise to undertake a program of this content and scale,” he adds.

“One thing we also have is reach. With Qatar wanting to build world class facilities we have project experts around the world working on exemplar projects which affords us the opportunity to harness global leading edge expertise and deploy it here.

“For this reason we are attracting our best people from all over the world to Qatar to work on this incredible program with a pure focus on best in class project delivery,” Williams continues.

A key component of the major projects portfolio to be executed under the management contract will be healthcare and schools with current activities concentrated on feasibility studies and prioritisation planning.

Williams explains that whilst many of Qatar’s major projects have been in the gestation stage for quite some time, the recent focus on preparations for the country to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is beginning to channel these projects to market.

“One of the major benefits of the Ashghal program portfolio is that there are several world class PMCs engaged by Ashghal who are all communicating and knowledge sharing across their respective programs.  Fundamentally we are all working together with a mission to ensure that we design and implement best practice here, working in full collaboration with our Qatari partners.  In this regard it truly is a fully integrated team structured around knowledge transfer and legacy,” Williams says.

Working together

The decision to execute under the JV model is gaining popularity in the region today with names such as Saudi Aramco, Dow Chemical, Suttons, Teejan Group and Imdaad all announcing agreements in recent weeks.

Yet these announcements come in the wake of news that Leighton Holding’s chairman “regrets” the company’s JV with UAE-based Habtoor Construction. Chairman Stephen Johns publically admitted to shareholders in May that financial losses have been an embarrassment to the company in front of its shareholders.

EC Harris has worked in joint ventures on several major projects for clients internationally and in the Middle East. With Mace they have worked in joint venture together on major programs for EMAAR in Dubai as well as many examples where they simply work as part of the same client chosen team.

Williams describes the partnering approach as that of the ‘best athlete’, pairing key people from both organisations to leverage capability and create balance between the parties.

“The mechanics of a JV are that you have to be clear in setting out what both parties are trying to achieve from the outset. Both EC Harris and Mace are deploying significant program management resources for Ashghal to achieve all of their objectives and we have a very clear JV contractual framework that will make sure we deliver,” he explains.

“I think, firstly, that you have to be very aligned as two organisations and that might sound simplistic but we have worked with Mace for around 20 years. We know each others’ strengths intimately and we complement each other very well indeed.  Fundamentally we structure our JV relationship to align with the clients specific program needs and critical success factors” Williams continues, naming client affairs management as a key skill forged between the two companies.

“We have worked really hard to make sure we are both incentivised to meet objectives. If we felt the mechanics were becoming unequal, that would have to be addressed,” he adds, continuing to describe the venture as benefitting from a combination of expertise and a single point of responsibility for the client, in a way a single company could not achieve.

“We also have good governance in the agreement with a JV board clearly stating how they are structured and what the support team on the ground can expect from us,” he reiterates.

The building programme

Currently, EC Harris and Mace are engaged in the establishment of their Qatar-based office before embarking on the five year programme – which could extend by a further two years.  First class resources are being drawn from each company’s pool and will mobilise from major programs such as London 2012 and King Abdullah Sports City.

“This appointment is a unique opportunity to facilitate the development of the public works landscape across Qatar and we are thrilled to be part of the delivery team,” Mace deputy CEO, Mark Reynolds, comments.

Mace entered the Qatari market in 2009 on a project, cost and construction management contract at the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) and has been working with EC Harris for 20 years including the region’s second largest mall, Doha Festival City.

“The size and scope of the infrastructure projects will provide the opportunity to demonstrate how collaboration and partnership can produce a scheme of innovation that places the country’s society at the heart of the project,” Reynolds continues.

Among those projects, Williams says there will be a strong focus on major social infrastructure in healthcare and educational establishments, in order to lay the foundations for the country’s future beyond 2022.

“One of the major things is that we are training for legacy, so we are effectively building best in class skills and capability within the Ashghal organisation which will enable our client to continue to operate on a sustainable basis well into the future,” Williams concludes.

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