RIYADH: Business ties between Saudi Arabia and Australia are set to gain momentum following the signing of a significant building and construction deal worth $27 million in Riyadh on Thursday.
The agreement was signed between the Kingdom-based Abdel Hadi Al-Qahtani and Sons Co. and Australia’s SSS Group to collaborate in the production of scaffolding systems in Saudi Arabia using local resources.
Following the signing of the deal, Australian Ambassador Mark Donovan told Arab News that the cooperation agreement builds on the existing investment ties in various sectors between both countries, including education, healthcare, aviation, and services.
He said the new deal has now opened “the door to” the construction industry as well as “the mining and resources sector.”
“What we are seeing is a very large deal in a new sector that we have not traditionally been involved in, so this is an important message for Australian companies that Saudi Arabia is genuinely open for business and that a new and transformed Saudi Arabia is looking for business relationships around the world, and that’s what we’re very pleased to be a part of,” the envoy said.
Donovan added: “Australia is a lot more like Saudi Arabia than European countries or North American countries. We’re both big countries, we’re both G20 economies, we both have the same challenges with water scarcity and a few other things like that, we also think in a very similar way, so what makes us different is that we intuitively understand what it is that Saudi Arabia needs, and we understand the commonality between our two countries.”
The top diplomat said Australia stands out from other nations due to its predictability and stability.
“We are a very predictable country, we have a regulatory system that does not change, and we don’t introduce protectionist measures because we believe very much in free trade, and we respect that about Saudi Arabia.”
Australian Trade and Investment Commissioner to Saudi Arabia Todd Miller said: “We’ve had between seven and 10 Australian companies coming through every week, coming and exploring the Kingdom in all sectors.”
Sheikh Tariq Al-Qahtani, chairman of Abdel Hadi Al-Qahtani and Sons Co., said the joint venture will not only begin manufacturing operations locally but also seek to export products to Europe, the US, and Australia.
“The raw materials will be 50 to 70 percent from Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Al-Qahtani explained that this agreement would change the structure of the scaffolding industry in the country, putting safety first coupled with high-quality materials.
AHQ Group owns the largest steel pipe manufacturing company in the Kingdom, supplying all piping to Saudi Aramco.
Sam Soukie, chairman of SSS Group, said: “We are committed to providing our clients with the very best in scaffolding solutions and we are very committed to ensuring the safety and the efficiency of their projects.”
He explained that their modern scaffolding systems will offer clients the latest in “technology and innovation,” and these will ensure “comprehensive and fully integrated services that cover all aspects of scaffolding, from manufacture, design, engineering, to labor services erecting, dismantling, and maintenance processes.”
He went on to say they were confident SSS presence in the Kingdom “will contribute to the advancement of the construction industry” and that they were “truly excited about the opportunities that lay ahead, and we look forward to forging strong partnerships and making a positive impact on the construction industry and achieving Vision 2030.”
The JV to be constructed in Dammam will be up and running in eight months with a production capacity of 12,000 tons in the first year of operations, followed by 50,000-80,000 tons in the third year.
The venture is targeting domestic and export markets, with the expected demand exceeding 500,000 tons annually in Saudi Arabia.
It is also expected to create job opportunities in Saudi Arabia.
Sam Jamsheedi, president of the Australia Saudi Business Forum and chairman of Trademark Group of Companies, said: “SSS is Australia’s largest scaffolding (manufacturer), and is the first time an Australian industrial company is actually setting off on a full operation in Saudi Arabia.”
Trademark Group of Companies is dedicated to helping Australian businesses expand into Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf Cooperation Council region and vice versa.
It also serves as a community for businesses to come together and share investment opportunities, and ideas and create relationships, operating as a platform that explores growth opportunities in different parts of the world.
Since launching their offices in Riyadh, Jamsheedi said: “Our membership has risen dramatically. There is a lot of interest on both sides. Our forum has become one of the most active platforms for educators and businesses. Since then, we had three successful companies that have come through.”