Ghassan Oueijan, Managing Director, Nakheel Landscapes

25 Feb 12:33 AM

Sector : Real Estate Country : Qatar

Transforming Landscapes

 

Al Nakheel Agriculture & Trading (now Nakheel Landscapes) was established in 1998 and is today one of the leading companies in the Middle East for the development and maintenance of landscape in arid climates. Based in Doha, the company provides modern public sector landscaping, hard and soft landscaping, irrigation systems, and sports turf facilities. B’Here sat with its CEO Mr Ghassan Ouejian to discuss the company’s growth since inception, the landscaping business, landmark projects and future plans.
 
Ghassan Oueijan earned his degrees from the United States in Economics (1986) and in Computer Science (1987). He started his career in landscaping industry at Palms Agro Production, Kuwait as IT Manager. After working for more than 14 years, he moved to Qatar in 2002 and joined AG Middle East as General Manager. With intensive and vast exposure in the landscaping field, he joined Al Nakheel Agriculture & Trading (now Nakheel Landscapes) in early 2009 as Partner and Managing Director. 

 

What is your assessment about the construction sector in Qatar today?

We are witnessing an increased activity on the tender side, mostly related to Lusail City and highways. Nakheel has been actively participating in many of these tenders, and additionally as subcontractors to the main contractors in various other projects.

For instance, today we permanently have over 40 requests for tenders and quotations. If we compare this with the previous year, the increase is about 50% to 60%.

How has the tendering process changed?

It has definitively become more complicated. There are more technical requirements.  Therefore, we need a strong engineering and estimating team to prepare the tenders correctly. 

What has been the impact on your sector from Dubai 2020?

Well, the activity in UAE has some impact for sure when searching qualified human resources. Additionally, in terms of remuneration you need to increase the package salary if you are to lure or even retain talent. Moreover, I assume that things will become worse on the run up to the Expo. However, I want to highlight that there are many more projects in our field in Qatar than in Dubai Emirate.

How was the second half of 2013 and first half of 2014 for Nakheel?

We had a very good year in 2013, increasing our turnover substantially, and completing several important projects.

Our turn over for first half of 2014 is 23% above first half of 2013 and we are still working on key tenders, some of which we are hopeful to win. However, we will not see these projects taking off before the end of the year or even early 2015.

How has the competition evolved in the landscaping sector?

Nakheel has been the leader of the market for quite some time now. Our main competitors are not from Qatar but from the UAE. There are around 4 to 5 main players in Qatar, including those from UAE.

Has the landscaping sector matured or changed substantially over the years?

Yes, it has changed tremendously, the architects, consultants, engineers as well as the employers becoming more demanding on level of quality.

Landscaping is not as before, planting trees and shrubs. The modern landscaping involves now most of the external works such as hard landscape, lighting, water features, street furniture, specimen trees, sports fields and more.

As with most projects execution seems to be delayed, what pressure do you feel towards the end of the construction process?

This is for sure one of the main challenges we are facing. Many projects are being delayed due to design changes, late decisions etc., putting more pressure on the contractor for completing the works in a short period.

Can you shed some light on the development of the nursery?

We have expanded and upgraded the nursery substantially over the last months. We are growing on over 70,000 trees as we are preparing for our future projects. The nursery is a key component of the landscaping business and at Nakheel we wish to anticipate the future needs.  It takes over five years to develop a tree to reach a suitable size.  We see a large demand for desert trees in particular.

Additionally, we are developing a 40-hectare nursery in the north of the country, again, mostly for trees. The nursery will be operational by the first quarter of 2015. Over 200,000 trees of a variety of species will be grown, including shade trees, native trees and ornamental trees.

Will the lack of water be a problem?

Well, Qatar is mostly a desert and one of the main issues is the lack of water for irrigation. Therefore, we expect the new sewage  treatment plants under completion to  deliver a good quality sewage treated effluent (TSE) water for landscaping in  the next years.

Which are the main projects you are now working on?

We are heavily involved in the Hamad International Airport (HIA) which is our main project. We started in mid-2012 and works will be completed by end of 2014 for the landscaping works while the installation of the 28m light poles will end by July 2015. 

I have to say that it is a very impressive project. To my knowledge, it’s currently the biggest landscaping project in the Middle East. The total area of landscape is exceeding 150 hectares. 6,500 trees have been planted, including more than 500 extra large specimen trees imported from UAE by barge, as well as 1.73 millions of shrubs and ground cover plants.

Last year you commented that The Pearl project was a game-changer. Is that case with the HIA project?

For sure yes. First, we are acting as a main contractor which means that you need to boast a big and efficient structure. At peak times we had 1,200 people working on site. And you will be surprised to hear that it goes very smoothly. Again, being the main contractor minimizes the coordination problems as you control the whole site and scope of works.

Which other projects would you highlight?

We are currently involved in the Western Green Spine and Sidra Hospital at Education City, Lusail City Development, East Corridor Highway, Sheraton Park and more. 

We are providing comprehensive maintenance services at The Pearl-Qatar, Doha Municipality Area 3, Doha Grand Park, Aspire Zone, Aspire Park, Aspire Academy and more. 

How many people do you employ and how is the number rising?

We permanently employ over 2,100 people and we also hire around 1,000 external workers. We recognize that people are fundamental to our success.

What’s the growth over the past and what’s expected?

For example, the value of the HIA project is $125.3 million. The Pearl-Qatar project was above USD $59 mn.  So that gives you an idea of the size of the projects. Our turn over for 2013 was $75 mn, and we are expecting a turn over about $96 mn for 2014.

Any other big projects coming in the future?

We have priced several tenders for Lusail City Development, Ashghal highways as well as many projects for the public realm landscaping. Of course, we are also looking at the Q22 projects. We are able to undertake any challenging large Landscape project.

Where do you see Nakheel in 2018 when celebrating its 20th anniversary?

I see Nakheel as a leading landscaping company in Qatar; a modern and professional company delivering jobs to the highest standards.

In addition, though at the moment we are concentrating in Qatar as there is a lot going on here, we have plans to expand in the region. We are keeping an eye not only on GCC countries yet on the whole MENA region. Some of our Qatari Clients could lead us overseas. 

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