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ANC Contracting November 09 www. bus- ex. com 65 affected margins, but Preece feels that ANC Contracting is well- placed to ride out the current storm. " Pre- crisis, we were a Dubai contractor but we are now moving into more markets," he says. " In the past, we have had a particular emphasis on commercial, residential, high- rise and corporate buildings in the Dubai area, but we are now looking at opportunities in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Oman." Preece came on board during the last peak in business growth with a directive to ' chase the spike'. " Around that time- 2007- we had in the region of 50 to 100 per cent annual growth and it was very much a contractors' market. Contractors back then were able to pick and choose what projects to work on. " Even then, we were broadening our base in terms of type of work and geographical location," he continues. " We are now tendering a lot more industrial projects than before and recently bid on a cable factory contract. In the past, we wouldn't have really looked at manufacturing projects but the days of 200 or 300 towers going up in Dubai are over, so we have had to diversify." Today, ANC Contracting has annual revenues of roughly one billion dirham ( approximately ? 182 million) and aspirations of sustainable growth in the region of 10 to 15 per cent per annum. Prior to the sharp peak of the last two years, both the company and Preece had witnessed consistent growth throughout the eighties and nineties in Dubai, and it was only in 2003 that the new era of boom S trength in hard times comes from character, a sensible long- term strategy and years of experience, all of which are present in abundance at ANC Contracting. Part of the ANC Group, which was established in Dubai back in 1976, the company is 100 per cent locally owned and has been incorporated for over 30 years, during which time the area has been entirely transformed. Operating with ISO 9001 accreditation, ANC Contracting has, during its lifetime, developed an excellent reputation for delivering quality projects. Among the highest profile of these is the 50- storey Arenco Tower, an iconic office building located close to Dubai Media City. In addition, the company's project of 146 luxury villas on the Jumeirah Golf Estates Earth Course will shortly receive top billing as the course plays host to the inaugural Dubai World Championships. ANC Contracting's general manager Chris Preece has worked in the Gulf region for 31 years. He joined the company two years ago, at a time when demand had become astronomical. " The market here was over- heating and needed a correction," he says. " The last five years saw a lot of less desirable elements enter the Dubai marketplace as the growth of the area became stratospheric. What has happened since then has flushed away a lot of the less amenable businesses and has focused people's minds on a more professional approach. In my opinion, it is the best thing that could have happened and has provided a much- needed culling." The effects of the economic downturn have certainly Building

66 www. bus- ex. com November 09 really took hold. " What we have seen in the last year in terms of decline has more or less balanced out the exceptional period that preceded it for five years," Preece explains. " We have therefore returned back to normal levels in a sense, and we pitch ourselves at the upper middle end of the market." One area of the local construction industry that has visibly changed has been the number of workers and the levels of skills available. Currently, ANC Contracting has a headcount of around 4,000, including 3,500 skilled and unskilled workers. The supply and demand equation has changed greatly in the short space of two years. " In 2007 and the first half of last year, there was massive demand for projects and few resources available," Preece explains. " That has turned over now and there is lots of supply and much less demand; we have plenty of resources in the area as lots of skilled workers have wanted to stay on for various reasons. We have therefore been able to recruit from a very experienced pool." Preece highlights safety as a priority in the workplace and as one reason why skilled workers come to ANC Contracting. " We pride ourselves on looking after our