Malta looks towards Dubai as it sets sights on the Big 5

With the big 5 expo only a few months away, maltese companies gear up to make an even bigger impact than in 2003

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By  Rhys Jones Published  July 24, 2004

The Big 5|~|furnbod.jpg|~|Many Maltese furniture suppliers will be at the Big 5 expo|~|Having had a big presence at last year’s Big 5 exhibition, Maltese firms supplying the construction industry are set to have an even greater representation at this year’s event. With the country’s construction firms aiming to make a real play to enter Dubai’s construction industry, the Big 5 could set the ball rolling for emerging Maltese companies to enter the UAE market. As well as looking directly towards Dubai, Malta clearly views itself as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, providing an ideal base for companies looking to do business the region. Patrick Cole, chief officer, business development, Malta Enterprise, told Construction Week about the country’s aims in Dubai’s construction industry and hopes of success at the Big5. Maltese companies related to the construction industry had a big presence at last year’s Big 5 expo. What do the Maltese firms have planned for this year’s event? Companies producing products in Malta, which are mainly related to the furniture industry will be showcased at this year’s Big 5 as well as companies that are marketing themselves out of Malta. This type of mix definitely gives us courage to continue with our trade and promotion activities out here, which is a big thing for us and we hope to continue in the same vein that we did last year, which was a big success for us. Six companies from the furniture industry as well as companies spanning industries such as paints and varnishes, paintbrushes, cables and aluminium products such as garage doors. There will be secondary providers to the construction industry at the Big 5 displaying beds, curtains and fabrics too. These Maltese exhibitors may not all be direct products for the construction industry specifically but they might be secondary, which may well complement different phases of construction. You could call the supply of furniture somewhat of a speciality for Maltese companies because a Maltese consortium recently won a contract to supply all of the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in Lybia so I’m sure other companies will be looking for the same opportunities in the UAE at the Big 5 expo. Malta is a country looking to use a lot of its resources on the UAE construction market. Why is this? First of all, many countries are looking to use Malta as a base to enter the Middle East and North African markets and many Maltese companies wanted to do business here so we decided to open up a consulate and a trade centre in Dubai because of this. We felt that doing this would give a full service to both the construction industry and Maltese industry as a whole after seeing the boom in the UAE. We gave the trade centre in the UAE priority and work with the construction industry in Malta by letting companies know what opportunities are available in the UAE and today these firms are eagerly looking at these areas. We are know exposing these companies to the area and I believe we have given them more courage to come to the area and especially into Dubai. The fact that Dubai is a natural business hub coupled with the fact that there is such a boom in the construction industry means that it is all related. Thus, the businessman automatically goes where the opportunities are and many opportunities lie in Dubai for Maltese companies. Many Maltese companies see Dubai and the UAE as a market they can really tap into and see an opportunity to expand.||**||Malta and Dubai|~|matbidbd.jpg|~|Building materials can be supplied to Dubai via Malta.|~|Why are Maltese companies so keen to come to Dubai because Europe is closer? I think it’s the logical market to aim for now. We do have numerous consulates in Europe but we have a very long trading tradition with North Africa and the Middle East so we understand the market and feel that we understand the construction industry in these regions. With our consulate in Dubai we feel that we can compete on a physical basis and show Dubai what Malta has to offer. Furthermore, we feel we have cultural ties to the North African and Middle Eastern markets. There are similarities between Arabic and Maltese, which makes communication easier as well as other cultural similarities that make doing business easier for us. The fact that we know the European market and work closely with companies from North Africa and the Middle East means that we look at Malta as a bridge between different regions. In terms of construction, what do you think that Maltese companies can offer to the Middle East and, in particular, Dubai’s market? International companies will not only look at Malta or Maltese firms for materials or products but also for services. Malta, even though it is a small island, can offer trade-related services in a convenient location at a competitive price and such services would certainly be convenient for construction companies looking to get into the Middle East region. What would you say are the specialities in terms of materials and products as well as specialist services that Malta offers the UAE market? Our speciality is trading and we have been trading to the Middle East region for 20 years and more and what we are able to do as a county is to act as the ‘go-between’ between different regions in terms of marketing. That is one of the services we offer and we see that as being extremely useful for the construction industry. As a service that area has grown significantly over the past few years. In fact we have about seven or eight companies within the furniture industry coming to take part in this year’s Big 5 exhibition in Dubai. ||**||Maltese construction|~|vieweybods.jpg|~|Malta can act as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.|~|Are Maltese companies tendering for a lot of construction business in the UAE at the moment? There are many Maltese construction companies looking to get involved in joint ventures in the UAE market. For example, there are project management outfits that are seeking involvement in the management side of medium sized projects in Dubai. These companies are actually based in Malta and I don’t think they are looking to relocate or move out to Dubai but are looking to team up with local partners where they can offer their management, knowhow and manpower if it is needed. What is the state of the Maltese construction sector at the moment? Land resources are very limited in Malta at the moment but there aren’t really that many highs and lows in the Maltese construction industry. Projects are ticking over and everything is steady. There won’t be contracts to build 50 towers in one go but there is steady, ongoing progress. I think most Maltese companies realise that, in order to grow, they need to expand outside of Malta and these firms definitely see Dubai as a key place to try and move into.||**||

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