x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

US construction suppliers seek solace in region

Builders are hoping to offset dwindling profits at home by capturing a share of the UAE's market, US executives say.

US suppliers of construction materials and equipment are chasing a share of the property development market in the Emirates as sales dwindle at home. In the past, US construction companies have had limited presence in the UAE, but recession in the US has prompted many to look towards the region as a way of boosting profit margins. "Most of the US market is pretty depressed at the moment, more so than anywhere else in the world, and everyone's wondering what they're going to do and where they're going to go," said Phil Ellis, the president and chief executive of Framemax, a steel framing company. "We're now looking to expand a lot faster overseas with the slowdown in the US." Despite banks tightening lending for construction projects in the region, US firms believe the Middle East has strong potential in the long-term. "The potential in the Middle East and Africa is like it was in the US 50 years ago, so we need to get on board," said Mr Ellis. Cemen Tech, a manufacturer of cement mixers, hopes to increase sales in the UAE from 5 per cent of sales to 20 per cent over the next few years. The company has been active in the country for about a year. "We've sold some equipment in the Emirates and we're looking to expand our markets and continue to improve our market share here," said Rick Eisiminger, the firm's international marketing manager. "The economy has slowed down pretty much everywhere in the world, and I don't think anyone's been unscathed. But there's nothing to lose in this market. We'd like the construction industry to be busier, and we'd like the value of the dollar to go up and the price of oil to go up so we can be healthier, but we're still optimistic that we'll do well in this market." Kerry Parham, the vice president of sales and marketing at Jiffy Clip, a concrete accessory supply firm, said that despite the slowdown, the UAE remained one of the most progressive and aggressive regions for construction in the world. "Our reason for expanding to the UAE is because of the construction here... While it may slow down a little we're still optimistic that it will continue to be strongly sustained in the long-term." Mr Ellis added that US firms had been slow to come to the Middle East because they were too focused on their home market. "US companies know they've missed out. I don't think they really understand the region as much as European companies and are almost fearful of coming here, which is why, until now, they've been slow to come." agiuffrida@thenational