Last week, it emerged that sanctions and travel bans levied on Saudi BinLadin Group (SBG) in the aftermath of the crane crash at Makkah Grand Mosque last year are set to be lifted. Additionally, the contractor’s rating would also be reinstated, a spokesperson for SBG told Construction Week.
Yaseen Alattas, chief communications officer at BinLadin Holding Company, said: “The restoration of the group’s classification and lifting of travel bans have been enacted based on the Saudi government’s decision, and hence, it is a matter for the government to comment upon.”
On 7 May, Saudi’s Al Watan reported that a spokesperson from Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) had announced that work had recommenced at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA), for which SBG was awarded a $7.2bn (SAR27bn) deal.
Speaking to Construction Week, Alattas said the contractor’s works on the KAIA project have been progressing as scheduled.
“GACA has already confirmed that the work [for] King Abdulaziz project did not stop, and that [it] is continuing until today.”
In the wake of last year’s fatal crane accident at Makkah’s Grand Mosque, senior management figures from SBG were prohibited from travelling abroad, and the company was forbidden from taking on new projects. SBG has traversed stormy waters since these restrictions were levied – more so in light of dwindling market fluidity and payments.
In that context, SBG’s latest triumph will no doubt redeem the contracting giant’s reputation in the industry, but could also buoy the construction sector in the Kingdom. After all, SBG’s fortunes have historically been a barometer for the performance of Saudi’s contracting sector.
While the Kingdom’s once-bullish national economy rewarded SBG with the high-profile projects it boasts in its kitty, declining petrodollars have now reduced profitability for Saudi contractors. As oil-related uncertainties continue to dictate the Kingdom’s construction sector, SBG has had to take tough decisions regarding the size of its workforce.
One could argue that SBG’s undoing this year has been its own enormity. As the Kingdom’s largest contractor, SBG has worked on some of the country’s most notable projects, such as King Abdullah Economic City, Al Faisiliyah Tower, and the 160ha King Abdullah Financial District. Its portfolio also includes the UAE’s Town Square and Sharjah International Airport.
Within the context of such expansive developments, the size of SBG’s workforce – which Reuters reported was 200,000-strong last year – seems both economically necessary and feasible for the contractor.