Proposed expansion would focus on Abu Dhabi rather than more mature market of Dubai

Costain is weighing plans to expand its presence in the Gulf to include its key areas of highways, marine, water and wastewater work, focused on Abu Dhabi.

At present, the firm carries out only oil and gas projects in Abu Dhabi, through its Costain Oil, Gas & Process (COGAP) arm.

The idea, contained in the firm's proposed business plan for 2009 to 2011, has reached the second stage of discussion on the Costain executive board and could get the green light by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Hatched by chief executive Andrew Wyllie and group strategy and business development director Stephen Wells, the plan would involve concentrating on Abu Dhabi rather than Dubai.

Andrew Wyllie
Chief executive Andrew Wyllie hatched the plan along with group strategy and business development director Stephen Wells

Two years ago, Wyllie shut Costain's international division, with the closure of a number of offices in Dubai, but Wells said that Abu Dhabi's reputation as a growing economy had forced the firm to rethink its strategy in the region.

He said: “Andrew and I said 'Let's look at the UAE and take a careful look at which sectors we can transport back to the Middle East'.

“It's better to concentrate on an emerging market like Abu Dhabi rather than Dubai where there are already a lot of contractors out there. Abu Dhabi has got a masterplan that's very comprehensive.”

COGAP employs around 1,000 people in the region - including site workers - and Wells said some UK staff will probably relocate to Abu Dhabi if the move gets the go-ahead from the board.

Costain is already talking to its local partners in Abu Dhabi about staffing up its office for an assault on the market. Wells added: “We're looking at a balance of expat expertise and local people.”

After Wyllie's decision to close the contractor's international arm, management of projects came under Costain's core sector arms.