Osama Bishai is the CEO for Orascom Construction Ltd., a leading global engineering and construction contractor that manages $3.5 to $3.8 billion of annual revenue in construction work. Primarily run in the Middle East, they have an additional ongoing operation in the US and are focused on infrastructure work, including power, water and wastewater. With their successful work including the ability to invest in infrastructure to create revenue, they are currently investing in a 250-megawatt wind farm and wastewater plants across Egypt.
Bishai spoke with us at CEO Today about Orascom’s engagement with the development of infrastructure in Egypt, their presence in the construction industry, and their proudest achievements over the last 3 years.
What are Orascom’s core values?
There are a lot of specific things that are important to us: We are very proud of our people, and we believe that they are the strength of the organisation. A major focus of ours is developing our personnel in order to effectively deliver our obligations, and other features that are important at Orascom are quality and safety. Overall, we are focused on fast track projects, as we have had a great track record over the last 30 years of delivering challenging schedules, and the fact that as we invest in certain businesses, we have the mentality of an investor. We understand the importance of high-quality, timely delivery within budget, because this is really what owners and investors would like to see. We are the contractors of choice for serious players who would like to get their facility running early and on-time in order to monetise their investment.
What has been your greatest achievement since becoming CEO of the company?
We have a number of large things that happened in the last few years that are of great value to us, and number one is that Orascom has been instrumental in the energy and power story of Egypt. Egypt was suffering in 2014 from a shortage of power – Orascom alone have built and restored around 11 thousand megawatts of power in the last 3 years, and this was a major achievement for us. The second achievement is the completion of two mega industrial projects in the US within difficult market conditions, which has a very high cost of labour, and for us is a new market. Industrial work is challenging, particularly in the states, we have been successful in accomplishing this. The third achievement is the commitment we made to our shareholders since we were involved in the power sector, and we told them: “the next story of Egypt will be water and wastewater.” We were successfully awarded with both water desalination and water treatment plants that are key in addressing the water-related issues in Egypt, so not only did we decide to be in that business, but we were successful in getting contracts.
What makes Orascom stand out compared to its competitors in the engineering and construction industry?
I reiterate our first advantage that makes us stand out is our team. We always invest in our people and have a strong team that has been extremely successful, as they have major experience working across our different projects in past years, making them our first distinction among our peers. The second is our ability to deliver aggressive schedules, which is firstly because of our people and our overall management system because in order to challenge and deliver aggressive schedules, it requires a management-based approach and the ability to overcome the challenges of our suppliers in Egypt and logistics in the US.
What challenges arise when creating a long-term concessions portfolio? How are these overcome?
The number one challenge when creating a long-term concessions portfolio is bankable pipeline opportunities. There could be opportunities that are not bankable, and in order to have an appetite in different sectors or in that business to create a portfolio, you want to see pipeline opportunities. This is very much dependent on the government or country that you are involved in where they will allow the flow of these opportunities in a way that can make them very exciting for the developers and investors involved. If you look at a place like France, Spain or Germany, the number of concessions is massive compared to the rest of the world, and that is what we would hope to see in the Middle East and the US in order to create an attractive a concessions portfolio.
What future growth opportunities do you see for Orascom?
Investment in infrastructure is where we are trying to look in terms of growth, as this would not only create construction opportunities, but it would create a steady revenue stream from such investments. We are also looking into logistics services that we can provide to clients where construction is associated. The other area of growth is Africa—we’re very excited about Africa—it has a lot of challenges, but we believe that we are well equipped to get involved there as we believe that Africa will be a great potential source of growth for Orascom.