New technology is Aamal's growth driver

The ready-mixed concrete sector in Qatar and the wider GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region is developing rapidly, both in terms of product quality and durability, as regional producers adopt the latest technologies to meet growing local demand. One such leading producer in this market is Aamal Company (Aamal). V L Srinivasan spoke to Aamal’s chief executive officer and managing director, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Faisal Al Thani, about the firm’s strategic growth in the last few decades, how it is successfully overcoming the impact of COVID-19, and its switch to more sustainable green concrete for increasingly environmentally minded customers
May 26, 2021 3 mins Read
By V L Srinivasan
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Faisal Al Thani
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Faisal Al Thani

The demand for aggregates and construction material witnessed a steep increase after Qatar was chosen to host the FIFA football World Cup in 2022. Aamal Readymix, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Doha-based Aamal, is among a handful of ready-mixed producers supplying construction firms who are working flat out to complete infrastructure projects in time for the global showpiece event being staged from 21 November to 18 December 2022.

Though the company was founded as Gettco Readymix in 1994, it was transferred to Aamal and became known as Aamal Readymix in 2005. Along with Aamal Readymix, Aamal has other businesses: Aamal Cement Industries, Gulf Rocks, Doha Cables, Advanced Pipes & Casts Company, and Aamal Maritime Transportation Services. All these companies are established as leading suppliers to Qatar’s construction industry.

An Aamal Readymix plant in an industrial area
An Aamal Readymix plant in an industrial area

According to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Faisal Al Thani, Aamal’s CEO and MD, Aamal Readymix is considered one of the largest producers of quality ready-mixed concrete in Qatar. The company owns production facilities near major national construction activity hubs.

Aamal Readymix is also regarded by various business contractors involved in large, medium and smaller-sized public and private sector projects as the preferred source of quality ready-mixed concrete. “The current products of Aamal Readymix are high-strength concrete, high-performance concrete, shotcrete, lightweight concrete and sustainable green concrete,” says Al Thani.

While focusing on Qatar’s highly demanding construction market, Al Thani says Aamal Readymix has expanded its operations at a remarkable rate while embracing advanced global technology.

The company has been awarded the Qatar Sustainability Award for introducing a special type of ‘green’ concrete with a reduced carbon footprint. Aamal Readymix is an approved supplier for state-owned corporations such as Ashghal (which undertakes construction of roads and buildings), Kahramaa (which takes care of water and power supply as well as its distribution in Qatar) and other well-established government projects. Aamal Readymix has developed its expertise and is renowned for delivering successful government infrastructure projects, school projects, stadiums, high-rise towers, and other developments.

COVID-19 challenges

Al Thani says that the impact of COVID-19 has focused ready-mixed concrete producers on tighter cost and liquidity management, while governments across the GCC were pitching in to support the private sector.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on global commerce and financial markets, and Aamal Readymix has been able to capitalise on opportunities to streamline costs, increase efficiency and minimise supply chain disruption to enhance our competitiveness.”

While the pandemic had the potential to disrupt its supply chains and operations, Al Thani says Aamal Readymix has been continuously monitoring market developments, assessing the implications on its operations, and adjusting where necessary.

In Qatar, while the market has been intensely competitive, the need to complete all the 2022 FIFA World Cup-related projects in time is expected by Al Thani to deliver a construction boom that should drive short-term growth in ready-mixed demand and the broader construction sector.

Aamal’s diverse business model with operations across a range of key sectors ensured the resilience of all its subsidiaries. They are essential in achieving long-term sustainable growth while benefitting from the flexibility to adapt and overcome any emerging crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, did not deter the company from exploring potential investment opportunities in other GCC region countries. “We have conducted a feasibility study to import gabbro from Oman, and the initial findings were encouraging,” says Al Thani. “We believe it is currently more efficient for Aamal to continue importing gabbro from Oman to cater to the needs of the local market. We will continue to explore and assess other opportunities where they make financial and strategic sense.”

A Gulf Rocks building materials storage site. Picture: Gulf Rocks
A Gulf Rocks building materials storage site. Picture: Gulf Rocks

Despite the pandemic, Aamal’s Industrial Manufacturing segment recorded a growth of 23.8% year-on-year in Q3 2020, driven by new contract wins. However, pricing and margins remained under pressure due to continuing acute competition.

“We are continuing to focus on improving operational efficiency, optimising our production base and improving efficiency at Aamal Readymix through implementing several operational improvements, including a review of sales and pricing policies to drive competitiveness,” Al Thani explains.

Aamal Readymix made its employees’ safety and well-being the top priority, applying the highest safety and security measures in the workplace via social distancing, providing personal protective equipment, and health-awareness sessions.

Market leaders

Al Thani stresses that both Aamal Readymix and Gulf Rocks are among the leading Qatari construction material suppliers, with Aamal Readymix producing 600,000m³ of quality ready-mixed concrete annually. Gulf Rocks is a leading importer and provider of high-quality gabbro aggregates widely used in concrete products.  

Aamal Readymix and Gulf Rocks are key subsidiaries in Aamal’s Industrial Manufacturing division, improving synergies in Aamal’s business operations in keeping with its diversified strategy.

“Building a strong industrial base has been one of Aamal’s key goals since our foundation, and we are proud to have been one of the first Qatari private-sector companies to start building an industrial manufacturing business to support the government’s efforts to drive economic development in sectors that are not dependent on hydrocarbons,” says Al Thani.

“In addition, as environmental considerations are increasingly important in construction design, Aamal Readymix is seeing growing demand for its top-performing green sustainable concrete which is based on recycled cementitious materials that offer extremely high strength and durability.”

Meeting the demand

Focusing again on 2022 FIFA World Cup projects, Al Thani says that in line with the Qatari government’s efforts to create greater economic diversification and secure a range of income streams for the country, there has been a marked increase in major project activity linked to transport, tourism, real estate, education, and infrastructure. Al Thani believes these projects’ requirements are underpinning national demand for construction material.

“In order to fulfil the large production and supply requirements for these projects, Aamal Readymix is in the process of expanding its production assets. Gulf Rocks is currently in the process of signing short- to medium-term agreements with potential sources of gabbro aggregates in Oman to ensure smooth supplies to the local market,” explains Al Thani.

Aamal Readymix currently owns four concrete batching plants, 69 vehicles, 14 mobile concrete pumps, and six stationary pumps which can pump concrete up to 600 metres vertically.

Significant milestone

A source of pride for Aamal Readymix stemmed from Aamal’s October 2020 inclusion in the Qatar Exchange (QE) Index. The index comprises the 20 most liquid and largest listed companies on the Qatar Stock Exchange by free-float market capitalisation. Al Thani says that inclusion in the index is a significant milestone for Aamal, heightening its profile and visibility in the investment community.

Al Thani adds: “We are always on the lookout for strategic growth opportunities as they arise, supported by our leading market position in the segments we operate in and our wide range of offerings of high-quality, innovative products. Over the longer term, we intend to continue to capitalise on the opportunities generated by the Qatar National Vision 2030,” he said.

Eco-friendly products

Aware of its responsibility in sustaining the environment, Aamal Readymix and Gulf Rocks produce high-quality, high-performing, environmentally friendly green concrete based on recycled cementitious materials that have extremely high strength and durability.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Faisal Al Thani with his father and chairman of Aamal and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani (centre) and other officials touring one of the industrial plants.
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Faisal Al Thani with his father and chairman of Aamal and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani (centre) and other officials touring one of the industrial plants.

Also, Aamal Readymix has won several certifications and awards based on its quality of production, delivery, and management systems. “We strictly implement a recycling policy for the waste generated in our factories. The activities include recycling wastewater and re-using it for washing mixer vehicles, segregating solid concrete waste into its ingredients, and re-using them and using oil and filters sent to recycling factories,” explains Al Thani.

For all these efforts, Aamal Readymix has been re-certified for achieving ISO 9001 (Quality Management System), 14001 (Environmental Management System), and 18001 (Health and Safety Management Systems) standards after a successful audit. Other awards and certificates that Aamal Readymix has won include ‘Certificate of Conformance for Concrete Production Facilities’ from the National Ready-Mixed Concrete Association for Bu-Qalila Plant 1, Salwa Industrial Area Plant 1, Bu-Qalila Plant 2, and Salwa Industrial Area Plant 2.

Aamal Readymix has also secured QHSE certificates such as ISO (9001: 2015), (14001: 2015), and (45001: 2018), in addition to Conformity Certificates from Qatar General Organisation for Standardisation.

Strong industrial base

Al Thai says that Aamal is among Qatari companies within the national industrial manufacturing segment contributing most to private-sector efforts to realise Qatar’s National Vision.

As Aamal has been adopting a business model based on synergy and diversity, it is evident how different units complement each other’s operations. Al Thani gives an example: “Aamal Maritime Transportation Services ships aggregates from different regional suppliers, which are essential for the operations of Aamal Cement industries and Aamal Readymix. This synergy significantly helps reduce the operational costs and creates an added value to our companies’ operations.”

Aamal’s Industrial and Manufacturing segment is well placed to benefit from the government’s 2021 budget allocation of QAR 20.4 billion (US$5.549bn) for highways, internal road networks and drainage systems.  Looking further ahead, more than 150 large-scale projects are expected to be undertaken over the coming years, primarily focused on roads, hospitals and schools.

Major projects such as the North Gas Field expansion, the multi-phased expansion of Hamad International Airport, and the expansion of Hamad Sea Port will help drive the demand for the segment’s core concrete, pipes, cement blocks and power-cable businesses.