The global construction market continues to boom and large international contractors are reaping the benefits. The demand for big-ticket projects, from petroleum production facilities and powerplants to major infrastructure upgrades and signature buildings, has made the demand intense for world-class contractors with the size and expertise to deliver these projects. As a result, big firms around the world are scrambling to grow, either organically or through acquisition, to meet this demand.
The scope of the hot market can be seen from the revenue figures provided by ENR’s Top 225 International Contractors. The Top 225, as a group, generated $310.25 billion in 2007 revenue from projects outside their respective home countries. This is a startling 38.3% increase over 2006’s mark of $224.40 billion. The Top 225 had total contracting revenue in 2007 of $826.96 billion, a 27.1% increase over 2006’s figure of $650.66 billion.
The story was pretty much the same regardless of the region. North Africa showed the biggest percentage increase in international work for the Top 225, rising 75.3% to $13.17 billion. The Middle East continued to show astounding strength, growing 52.0% to $62.89 billion. Other big gainers included Europe (up 34.2% to $96.45 billion), Asia (up 37.9% to 55.40 billion), the U.S. (up 26.8% to $36.91 billion), Latin America (up 41.3% to $19.25 billion) and central and southern Africa (up 48.3% to $15.42 billion). Only Canada (up 3.6% to $8.28 billion) and the Caribbean (down 10.7% to $2.01 billion) bucked this huge surge.
Not all of this increase can be attributed to hot markets. ENR asks non-U.S. contractors to provide their revenue in U.S. dollars and requests that the currency conversion rates in effect on Jan. 1 of the survey year be used to provide the dollar amounts.
In 2007, the euro, the Japanese yen, and several other currencies surged against the dollar. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and Jan. 1, 2008, the euro had risen 11% in value from $1.32 to about $1.47, the value that was used by survey participants for this year’s survey. This boosted the Top 225’s revenue for many international contractors who were paid in euros. The Japanese yen rose about the same between January 2007 and January 2008. So currency fluctuations played a role in the dramatic increase in revenue for the Top 225.
One major change in the world market is just how international the market has become. This year’s Top 225 has contractors from 35 different countries. Where the Top 225 used to be dominated by U.S., European and Japanese firms, there now are groups of firms on the list based in China, Turkey, and the Middle East. Only 35 U.S. contractors are on this year’s Top 225, a record low for ENR’s Top international surveys.
European contractors are upbeat in the near term, but are uncertain of where the banking crisis will lead. “We have a substantial backlog,” says Herbert Lütkestratkötter, CEO of Germany’s Hochtief AG. “We are pretty busy and we are almost certainly going to be busier in 2009,” adds Ian Tyler, CEO of the U.K.’s Balfour Beatty Construction Ltd.
|THE 2008 TOP 225 AT A GLANCE|
For some major international contractors, the current market is bringing its own set of problems to keep up with the booming market. “We are still facing very high levels of new orders and...facing shortages of staffing,” says Michel Cote, deputy CEO of France’s Bouygues Construction SA.
Contractors in the hottest market sectors are scrambling to keep up. Petroleum is one such market, with 2007 revenue leaping 77.5% to $80.04 billion for the Top 225. Russia’s Stroytansgaz is feasting on the growing demand for petroleum projects and has now branched out into the power sector, says Leonid Bokhanovsky, first vice president. “The Middle East and North Africa is a growing market in oil and gas and energy projects for us,” he says.
Construction demand in chemical and petrochemical sectors will continue to be “very good” in the next couple of years, says Fabrizio Di Amato, major shareholder and CEO of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont SA. “We need to increase our capacity,” he adds. North...