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Contractor profiles: Leading Saudi firms involved in the Kingdom's giga-projects

By Gulf States Newsletter
5 August 2021

Article from volume 45,  issue 1,131

Having built up a list of local construction firms working on the giga-projects, GSN has analysed the shareholding records for several contractors, using data provided by Diligencia in a partnership to help sharpen understanding of those involved. It shows that the companies most heavily involved are often decades old, with the exception of Saudi Real Estate Infrastructure Company (Binyah). They are mainly in private hands (Red Sea International is an exception) and often held by generations of the same family.

Al Mabani: Kamal Adham’s creation
Al Mabani General Contractors is working with Nesma on the airside infrastructure works for the Red Sea International airport, under a 2020 contract. It is also in joint ventures working on the $804m King Faisal Air Academy facilities construction, the $560m construction of King Salman airbase in Dirab and the construction of airbase facilities in Hofuf.

It was established in the early 1970s, with its work on Jubail’s development in the late 1970s noted in early issues of GSN’s predecessor the Saudi Arabia Newsletter. Other major projects included the Rabigh desalination plant, Mecca-Medina highway, Dammam-Riyadh railway, offset deals under the Al-Salam Aircraft scheme, a Sang headquarters, Ministry of Interior projects in the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), the Peninsula Shield Force facility at Hafar Al-Batin – which Al Mabani called its first SR1bn project – the Riyadh Metro and various airport projects. It has reported a rise in turnover from $538m in 2014 to $800m in 2020.

Al Mabani was founded by the late Kamal Adham, founder of the Saudi intelligence services and advisor to kings Faisal and Khalid; he died in 1999. Adham’s half-sister Iffat was married to King Faisal and hence he was the maternal uncle of several of Faisal’s children. Alongside Adham in Al Mabani’s establishment were the Lebanese nationals Nehme Youssef Tohme and the late Fouad Rizk.

The largest shareholder today, with 50%, is the Tumah family’s Beirut-based Engineering Building Services. Other shareholders are Badr and Rasha Harb Saleh Al-Zuhair (with 20% and 10%) and Adham’s grand-daughter Nadia (10%). Tumah separately owns 10%. The late Harb Al-Zuhair was in defence, general business (including the Arabian Shield Development Company with Adham) and construction.

Adham was also behind Freyssinet, which he established in the late 1970s with Al Mabani. After Adham’s death, his sons Faisal and Sultan took over Freyssinet and are believed to own the company outright. Freyssinet (with Haif Contracting) has a SR1.1bn roads and bridges contract from the PIF’s Qiddiya Investment Company to work on the Qiddiya giga-project.

Nesma & Partners: Survivors from an earlier boom
The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) awarded a joint venture of Nesma & Partners and Al Mabani General Contractors an estimated $240m contract for the airside infrastructure works for the Red Sea Project’s airport. Set to open in 2022, the Foster + Partners designed airport plans to serve 1m passengers a year. TRSDC chief executive John Pagano noted the Nesma-Al Mabani group’s “impressive expertise” in delivering airside infrastructure.

Jeddah-based Nesma has worked on various civilian and military airport projects around the kingdom – for example, the Saudi Arabian National Guard (Sang)’s Dirab Airbase – and is a main contractor on the King Faisal Air Academy and King Salman Airbase construction and relocation projects (the former became surrounded by Riyadh’s huge growth and occupies important real estate – hence the move – while the later became outdated).

Nesma was established during an earlier construction boom, in 1981. Part of the Nesma Group, the company appears in early issues of GSN, especially for its work with Costain. Saleh Ali Abdelrahman Al-Turki, born in 1947, served as president and chairman of Nesma Group until his appointment in August 2018 as Jeddah’s mayor. Saleh’s public position prompted a generational leadership change at Nesma Group with his son Faisal (born 1981) and daughter Noura (born 1984) taking over as president and vice president. According to one account, Saleh was born in Baghdad, where his family had emigrated to during hard economic times in Arabia before returning to the kingdom.

Nesma is majority-owned by Saleh Al-Turki and his brothers Khalid and Abdulaziz via various companies. The largest shareholder, with 46.5%, is Nesma Contracting, owned by Saleh and son Faisal. Khalid Ali Al-Turki & Sons Investment Industrial Company (owned by Khalid Ali Al-Turki Holding Company) has 20.5%; that company is chaired by Khalid, who had a long career in banking and education, whose son Rami (born 1973) is president.

Rami was recently appointed a board member at King Fahd Causeway Authority. A few years ago, he told Construction Week “there is not a single project in Saudi where we are not involved in some way or the other.” Khalid’s daughter Rasha is on the Saudi Human Rights Commission board and also serves at Alnahda, set up in the 1960s by King Faisal’s daughter Sara to empower women.

Rawabi Holding and Atheeb Holding own 16.5% each in Nesma. Al-Khobar based Rawabi is owned by Saleh’s brother Abdulaziz, his wife, and his children Nouf (born 1981), Mohammed (a film producer and chair of the Red Sea International Film Festival) and Saud. Like other parts of the Al-Turki business, it works in construction and contracting and its joint venture with Lebanon’s Butec is reportedly working on Amaala’s international airport. Rawabi sponsors two annual prizes at the London-based Saudi-British Society. In 2019 Rawabi increased its capital from SR200m to SR750m.

Atheeb belongs to Prince Abdulaziz Bin Ahmed and his wife Kholoud Musaed Ahmed Al-Sudairi. Prince Abdulaziz and the Al-Turki brothers (Saleh, Khalid and Abdulaziz) have long been in business together via various vehicles, for example Pan Nesma, established in the early 1990s to work in the defence sector (including on the Peace Shield Programme). A decade ago, Raytheon and Pan Nesma agreed to set up a joint venture to work on the kingdom’s C4I command and control system.

Prince Abdulaziz’s father, former interior minister Prince Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz, and brother Prince Nayef were detained last year and are believe to still be in custody. However, this does not seem to have particularly affected family business – or at least their ability to win contracts. “I find in these families the fact that one member is in trouble doesn’t necessarily reflect on even the closest members,” said a source who studies the Al-Saud.

See here for more contractor profiles and a July 2021 map of Saudi Arabia highlighting the various giga-projects under development across the country.


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NOTE: A contractor’s inclusion in this listing should not be seen as a ranking of the top contractors or as a mark of their standing, as there has been no focus paid to their liquidity, reputation or exposure to unpaid receivables.

About GSN
Established in 1974, Gulf States Newsletter (GSN) provides independent reporting and analysis of the Gulf region and its ruling elites. Supported by neither governments, wealthy individuals nor institutions, GSN functions on a business model based solely on subscription revenues.


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Gulf States Newsletter

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Diligencia provides specialist business intelligence and due diligence services based exclusively on primary sources in the Middle East & Africa.

More about what we do