This year again, The Big 5, as the most important and largest building and construction show of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and MENA (Middle East & North Africa) countries, showed a corresponding growth: the organizers, Dmg Events, recorded 2,586 exhibitors from 142 countries and more than 75,000 visitors. Behind China, Turkey and Italy, Germany once again represented the fourth-largest company quota with a total of 175 exhibitors. Obviously in order to meet the growth, the exhibitors of the “Middle East Concrete” and the “PMV Live” (Plant, Machinery and Vehicles) shows, being integrated in The Big 5 since 2011 on an annual basis, were accommodated in a new hall. The number of exhibitors specialized in concrete and construction machinery alone increased by 25 % compared to last year. The corresponding vehicle and machinery fleet was exhibited on the outdoor area in front.
The opinions and the statements of the trade show participants concerning The Big 5 and the economic development in the Middle East, including Iran and North Africa, were indeed no longer as favorable as a year ago. There were some doubts about the positive economic development which is supported by a constantly rising growth due to investments in infrastructure and construction projects, for example, in conjunction with the Expo 2020, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Though many forecasts are still clearly positive, as Josine Heijmans, the Event Director of The Big 5, emphasizes: this year‘s growth of the UAE construction market will reach a good 6.6 % with an overall economic growth amounting to 2.6 %. Reasons are the growth of population in Dubai, which is expected to rise to 3.4 million people in the next four years, the growing number of tourists per year, which is forecast to exceed the 20 million mark, as well as the ambitious “Plan 2021” to turn Dubai into a “Smart & Sustainable City” – this requires investments in infrastructure and building construction.
Critical voices refer to the vast number of flash points in the Middle East: The war of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the enmity of the kingdom with Iran and the persistent hostility to reform give Saudi Arabia poor results. Some exhibitors record sales declines of up to 50 % with Dubai‘s neighbor. Hence, the capacity utilization of the precast concrete factories producing in Saudi Arabia is rather weak. In addition, corruption seems to run rampant in all Arabian countries, with the exception of the United Arab Emirates, with all the very well known disadvantages for the economy. Unfortunately, crises and wars are well established in this part of the world.
However, the exhibitors generally affirm their loyalty to the region and The Big 5, which has established itself without dispute to the leading trade show of the construction industry in the Arabian countries. A “Saudi Build” or “Project Qatar” are therefore no serious alternatives. However, Bauma China held in Shanghai this year simultaneously is a serious competitor to The Big 5 Dubai.
Masa, the manufacturer of plants and machinery for the building materials industry, who has been represented at the trade show for 30 years, had one of the biggest stands at The Big 5. General Sales Manager, Frank Reschke, underlined his optimism with three new plants being installed in the UAE at present. As long-term experience shows, plants of low-cost suppliers are no alternative for the customers, according to him. They are rather an existential risk of inestimable magnitude.
Good transactions were also reported by Mario Pfender, General Manager of mbk, the expert in reinforcement welding machines, who exhibited together with Rieckermann, the Hamburg-based trading company and supplier of complete solutions. Though the Saudi-Arabian market is quite volatile, as stated by the Rieckermann employee, Dieter Adam domiciled in Jeddah, he still banks on a strong presence in the region and an uninterrupted continuity in business relationships.
Andreas Priebs of Rotho, the manufacturer of curing racks and circulation systems, commented similarly, but somewhat less optimistic on the future development of the market. With The Big 5, Dubai most certainly is the main hub for the construction industry in the Middle East. To continue positive business developments, for him it is absolutely necessary to show one’s colors because of the local competition.
Christoph Müller-Bernhardt of Vollert took a similar position, being cautiously optimistic. The construction of more low-energy houses, is a trend identified by him as an example in this regard. He stated that Vollert is best prepared when it comes to the real implementation of such projects. The Big 5 is in any case the flagship to extensively demonstrate this expertise in the Arabian region, according to him.
Since 2001, Liebherr has also been strongly represented in the region. Ali Kassem, the regional Sales Director, is well aware of the challenges in the market, even concerning the time after Expo 2020. Nevertheless, he sees good sales opportunities for the 50 m concrete pump, which Liebherr presented in the Middle East in 2016 for the first time.
Hawkeye Pedershaab and Techmatik, the Polish company that was acquired by Columbia in February 2016, gave a cautiously optimistic statement about the situation, although they noticed that the market has stabilized for about eight months. The one-dimensionality of the previous growth must be put into perspective: regional, cyclical, if not even with a proper degree of skepticism.
On the second day of the trade show, the exhibition management, however, came up with a surprise: In the future, the Middle East Concrete and the PMV Live will no longer be co-located with The Big 5, but outsourced as an own show. In practical terms, that means that this show for the concrete and precast concrete industry will take place again in the World Trade Center in Dubai only in March 2018. How exhibitors and visitors – after initial refusal – will react to this in the long term, will become apparent in the course of 2017, when registrations will be taken for the new show.
The organizer of the trade show, Dmg Events, would have solved at least one of his own problems in this way: The traditionally strongly represented companies of the supply industry to the concrete and precast concrete industry will not have to decide, in the future, between a participation in The Big 5 Dubai and the Bauma China taking place simultaneously – at least not for scheduling reasons. The trade show budget is another subject.
Text: Dipl.-Ing. Christian Brensing