Preparing for Success – International Finance interviews PIH Chairman, Mr. Moutaz Al-Khayyat

April 18, 2021

Power International Holding is expanding its work horizontally and vertically into diversified sectors in Qatar and regions of the world.

Founded by Moutaz Al-Khayyat and Ramez Al-Khayyat, Power International Holding is a business conglomerate headquartered in Qatar. Overseeing the conglomerate’s portfolio which sits across six main sectors: general contracting, industries and services, agriculture and food industries, real estate, lifestyle and services, has given Moutaz Al-Khayyat and his younger brother Ramez Al-Khayyat a wide exposure to nearly all facets of Qatar’s rapidly growing economy. As part of a bigger vision, Power International Holding seeks to ensure sustainability and success for each of its business enterprises within those sectors—by providing them with necessary support functions, tools and resources. Interestingly, grouping of the sectors is carried out by leaders who proactively work together in multi-disciplinary groups. This in turn ensures that its business enterprises will continue to thrive and flourish in the coming years.

Power International Holding has transformed itself as a second-generation business organisation expanding horizontally and vertically into diversified sectors and regions of the world. By practice, the conglomerate uses its vertically integrated business units to create sophisticated products and services. In an interview with International Finance, Chairman of Power International Holding Moutaz Al-Khayyat, tells us about what unites the group of companies and their collective work in enhancing the nation’s economic attractiveness in line with Qatar National Vision 2030.

How diverse is Power International Holding’s portfolio and what are its efforts in promoting sustainable growth for business enterprises?
Power International Holding is a Qatari conglomerate comprising six main subsidiaries. We challenge all these businesses to run a continued programme of becoming more efficient, responsive, and agile. We believe that these principles will best serve the needs of our customers, whether they are prominent real estate developers or individuals consuming our cartons of milk.

First: UCC Holding is one of the world’s top 250 contractors, according to Engineering News-Record. Focused on four main areas of activities, such as infrastructure and heavy construction; buildings; marine works; and oil and gas, UCC Holding is currently constructing what is essentially a new city in Al-Wakrah, with two vast residential projects, as well as mosques, public spaces and hypermarkets.

Second: Elegancia Group is a conglomerate of excellence, comprising companies working in their individual industry of specialization. The group spans four major divisions in sectors such
as services, industries, healthcare and contracting. A subsidiary of Elegancia Group, Elegancia Healthcare, has recently signed an agreement with Cedars-Sinai Los Angeles for The View Hospital. The 250-bed facility is located in Al Qutaifiya, in the vicinity of Lusail, Katara and The Pearl, Qatar, and will open in August 2022.

Third: Baladna QPSC is Qatar’s agrifood industries champion. Established three and a half years ago, Baladna spans 2.5 million square metres of land on which over 20,000 cows graze. Within a year of launch, Baladna had helped Qatar to achieve 100 percent milk self-sufficiency and since then it has diversified into fruit juices, UHT long-life milk, laban, and a vast range of other dairy products. The group was successfully listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange last year.

Fourth: Assets Real Estate works in hospitality, commercial, residential and mixed-use developments across Qatar, Lebanon and Oman. This includes THE e18hteen tower in the Qatari coastal city of Lusail, a project that was recognised to be the nation’s best commercial high-rise development. The 23-storey residential Baywalk Tower on The Pearl is a luxurious artificial island off Doha that was completed this year.

Fifth: AURA Group is Qatar’s leading lifestyle business, with particular strengths in food and beverage and entertainment. This includes Megapolis, an unrivalled entertainment centre that has top quality arcade games, escape rooms, bowling and karaoke. Despite the pandemic, AURA has secured international brands for the Mall of Qatar and The Pearl by early 2021, including a burger joint to the stars, Black Tap, and French restaurant Beefbar.

Sixth: Power International Holding General Services include Joury Travel and Tours and Printshop. Established in 2012, Joury offers personalised travel tours, including inland expeditions and stays at some of the Middle East’s finest hotels. Printshop uses advanced technologies that can fulfil our client’s requirements, be it in UV printing, offset printing, 3D printing, solvent printing, sublimation, die cutting, laser cutting or engraving.

How are those business enterprises performing in their respective sectors amid the coronavirus pandemic?
Baladna, for example, is used to thriving even in the case of crisis as it was born under the shadow of the diplomatic crisis that led to the blockade. The company continues to thrive, supplying more than eight out of every 10 glasses of milk consumed in Qatar. It has recently partnered with Veolia Water Technologies to upgrade the wastewater treatment facilities at its farm in Al Khor. The treated water will be used for irrigation throughout the farm, and during hot summer months, it will be used to spray and cool the cows, saving thousands of gallons of water every month as part of the group’s ongoing sustainability initiatives.

However, construction business has obviously been difficult across the world, but we have only faced challenges in terms of slight slowing of projects. Safety and sustainability continue to be the core pillars of Power International Holding’s growth story, with UCC recognised as the Country Winner – Qatar 2020 by the British Safety Council. UCC was felicitated based on the safety record of our workers and the Qatari government has signaled greenlight for a number of our projects. The FIFA World Cup is set to be hosted in Qatar in 2022 and the pandemic won’t stop the nation from preparing for the sporting jamboree. Our affiliated company Elegancia Facilities Management has assisted us in many ways. It has invested heavily since the beginning of the year and is furnished with state-of-the art disinfection vehicles and equipment.

What is the role played by Power International Holding in realising Qatar National Vision 2030?
As you can see based on our range of sectors, from food self-sufficiency to laser cutting to building infrastructure to providing world-class entertainment, Power International Holding embodies Qatar National Vision 2030. The ambition is to diversify the economy away from oil and gas and our subsidiaries are leading that charge.

UCC subsidiary has been awarded a contract for developing two residential projects worth over £1 billion in Al-Wakrah, a historic fishing village that lies on the shoreline of Qatar’s coast. How will the new development contribute to Qatar’s construction sector and cement UCC’s global reputation?
UCC recently signed a deal to develop Qatar’s second biggest city, building two residential projects in Al-Wakrah. Once completed, the projects will house more than 60,000 people, along with new schools, leisure spaces, and green transport connections for visitors and residents. The city will be home to tens of thousands of people, transforming UCC from a national champion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to the builder of the region’s most modern cities. The contract points to the fact that Qatar’s construction sector is thriving and will continue to be a prime focus for the economy in the future.

A report has taken into account Qatar’s work in following sustainability principles in the construction of various World Cup projects. What opportunities will they bring to build resilience in the construction sector and how will Power International Holding assist in building that resilience?
All World Cup stadiums need to obtain the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development’s green building standard Global Sustainability Assessment System certification. The Global Sustainability Assessment System is designed specifically for the MENA region and drives sustainability endeavours and climate actions by addressing global challenges in a regional context. UCC Holding is an affiliate member of Gulf Organisation for Research and Development and is also a sponsor of Lean Construction Institute-Qatar.

Despite the recent talk of change, there are many aspects that remain the same and will continue to offer us tremendous growth opportunities. People want a home they can be proud of and visit restaurants or entertainment venues with their families. For our colleagues, they should feel proud that they are part of delivering projects that not only seek to make the World Cup a success, but also for people to enjoy and value the moment for generations to come.

What is your outlook for the domestic real estate sector over the next two to five years considering that the nation has loosened restrictions on foreign property ownership?
We believe that investments in tourism, infrastructure and real estate projects will increase after the pandemic. The Foreign Property Ownership Law, which was introduced in October this year, is particularly beneficial as it encourages competitiveness among non-domestic buyers and businesses. For example, this law increases the number of places where non-Qataris can buy properties outright and permanent residents will be able to run commercial operations without a local partner.

How has Qatar’s status translated into economic gains after it won the 2022 bid to host the FIFA World Cup?
Statistics show that there were a number of boom years as Qatar built the infrastructure needed to deliver a fantastic sporting spectacle. In 2013, the real estate price index soared 16.45 percent when
adjusted for inflation, followed by 31.81 percent and 10.75 percent in the next two years. Moreover, this has helped Qatar to diversify the economy away from its previous reliance on oil and gas, especially with the construction sector adding value to hospitality, retail and leisure industries, through development of new restaurants, shopping malls and hotels. With all eyes on the 2022 FIFA World Cup, I look forward to highlighting the best of Qatar and hope to leave a legacy long after the iconic golden trophy is presented in Doha.

The conglomerate has profound knowledge and industry expertise through developing complex projects over time. How do you see its collective experience contributing to economic sectors in Qatar and regions of the world?
The Al-Wakrah project is a significant part of our growth in Qatar. As a mature business, we can now build new modern ideas for the development of a smart city. Beyond Qatar, our companies are already exporting to and developing several MENA countries. Perhaps the most exciting work coming up
for us is in Malaysia, where Baladna will support another nation in its drive to dairy self-reliance.

What will be the impact of the recent cooperation agreement with Dar Al Sharq on enhancing public relations in the Arab world?
Dar Al Sharq is a leading institution in providing distinguished services in the field of media, advertising, and public relations. We will work together to take public relations to new heights for employees in the Gulf and the Arab world. Supported by Power International Holding, Dar Al Sharq has started work on establishing the first Arab website that specialises in integrated services for public relations experts in the Gulf and neighbouring countries. This database will be a reference point for the public relations
industry, modernising it throughout the region.

How does Power International Holding see Qatar’s strength in terms of its economic diversification away from oil and what sectors need to be in sharp focus to achieve that diversification?
Construction and manufacturing are clearly the key beneficiaries of Qatar’s diversification away from oil and gas. We know that the economic multiplier of those sectors is significant, creating growth in other sectors. If you take the construction sector, it has flourished, backed by four years of budget surpluses to fund public spending. We have a fast-expanding airport, new metro lines and billions of dollars allocated for new highways. All of this points to better connectivity—and further diversification will seamlessly follow.

Will Qatar’s economic readjustments be on point, given that the value of its construction sector is estimated to reach £57.04 billion by 2025?
We are confident that the economy will rally significantly, putting the Qatari construction sector back on track. The development of the nation’s transport infrastructure, creation of world-class sporting venues and building modern residential and hospitality projects are key drivers in catering to the growing population.

The pandemic is notoriously affecting businesses worldwide. How has it disrupted the work so far and how is the conglomerate coping with the crisis?
Of course, there were disruptions, but we have kept our workforce safe and use the best disinfection equipment available. My absolute priority as the chairman has been to look after our people throughout the pandemic. By ensuring that we have the right measures and equipment in place, we have been able to keep people safe and minimise disruption, meaning that most of our projects have remained on track. I’m incredibly grateful and proud of my teams’ efforts, and I believe that we are well positioned for continued growth.

We are ready to go when pent-up demand is unleashed as the economy recovers. What the pandemic has shown us is how important the digital world has become—and how technology builds resilience. For example, we created a comprehensive digital shopping experience for the Mall of Qatar. This includes a customer data platform that allows engagement with customers, a generous loyalty programme to encourage frequent visits and an innovative ecommerce platform to complement the experience.

Another example is AURA Hospitality’s adoption of digital solutions. Scannable QR codes are used to replace physical menus. The group has also introduced Wajbati, the one-stop-shop for shoppers, combining food delivery, ingredient delivery and food subscription service—all in one app. We are working with some of the top players in digital transformation, such as Google and SAP, to future proof our business frameworks and processes.

Innovation and digitisation remain our priorities. We want Power International Holding to become agile, data-driven and flexible. While hard work and collaborative approach has earned the conglomerate years of success, we must always consider what comes next and be ambitious about our investments.

How is the pandemic influencing the key sectors of Power International Holding?
Arguably, this year has shown us that the most effective business leaders must be ready to adapt now more than ever. The pandemic has obviously slowed down most of the economic sectors. Businesses have had to prove their resilience and Power International Holding’s model has demonstrated significant strength. We are looking forward to bounce back not only in Qatar, but also in the MENA region and the rest of the world. Having overcome short-term challenges, we certainly seem to have prepared Power International Holding for more years of impressive growth and achievements.

 

This article is originally published in International Finance Magazine.