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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  21 Aug 2012

BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION: New Impetus and Vision for M & R


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The appointment of Gavin Taylor as Chief Operations Officer - Buildings and Construction Africa at Murray and Roberts Buildings, part of the Murray and Roberts Construction platform, heralds a new impetus and vision for the Group’s buildings business in Africa.

“Traditionally Murray and Roberts Construction has operated a number of stand-alone building divisions in Namibia, Botswana, Gauteng and the Western Cape, but in today’s tough market, where margins are low and work is hard fought for, we are re-defining the buildings businesses across the SADC region,” Taylor says. “We are not changing the independence of these business units but are working hard to effectively break internal operational silos, and placing all our building operations on a more flexible footing in order to respond to our clients’ needs.

“We plan to challenge the building industry’s knee-jerk reaction to recessionary times — being a lowering of margins and an aggressive contractual stance. Instead, during 2011 we set in motion a process that is seeing us evolving into a more solutions focused business and by being involved in the clients’ project cycle as early as possible, and being more innovative in de-risking the projects to extract mutual benefit for both client and contractor.

“This process is already beginning to bear fruit in regard to our existing customer base. As a result of our strong relationships with a number of these customers, we are a more focussed business that is able to demonstrate a greater predictability and cost certainty in project delivery.”

Recent Projects
Murray and Roberts Buildings was recently awarded two new corporate office blocks in Bryanston and Sandton, for property developers by Zenprop and Eris Property Group respectively.

“Both these clients – Zenprop and the Eris Property Group – are among our strategic partners,” says Taylor. “We’ve executed several projects for them, and are currently on site at Portside, Cape Town’s tallest CBD building, and Willowbridge Place in Tyger Valley, Cape Town. We’re also currently working on the FNB regional office in Francistown, Botswana, and we’ve submitted a tender for the new FNB building in Namibia. Now we want to work alongside more clients with a similar approach to develop similar relationships, where we are able to be involved in the early stages of developing a project execution plan. This will allow us to deliver an exceptional product and good value for money which we believe will add real value to the client’s business.

“The market must change to accommodate relationships like these, where both the risks and the rewards are shared. We recognise that this kind of change will take time and call for forward-looking clients, particularly among those who plan to invest in Africa, to speak with us.

“Too often we act as just contractors and we have much more to offer. We need to freshen up, change perception and become far more client-focused,” he says.

On Africa, Taylor also states that with seven out of the ten fastest growing countries in the world being on the continent, Murray and Roberts has identified real long term growth potential across the full range of service offerings within the group.

“We have to, however, address a growing backlash in African countries against businesses that seek to profiteer without contributing to the host countries’ society,” he continues. “Companies have for decades profiteered on opportunities with a short term outlook and whilst looking for good on their forward workload reports this is no longer sustainable in my view. Deals have been made with African governments in return for promises to ‘build their nations’. To some extent, this has happened, but only in so far as it has helped facilitate the logistics of mineral extraction and export thereof and very little else has been added to the fabric of the host countries society. South Africa has indeed also been victim to similar ‘raiding parties’.

“Africa, as it awakens, is keen to build its developing society in tandem with and on the back of mineral wealth extraction and infrastructure development. African companies need to contribute to this process and Murray and Roberts is an African business. As far as the SADC nations are concerned, we believe South African companies have an international commitment to help boost infrastructure and contribute to the growth of society on the sub-continent.”

Powerful synergies
Taylor says all the Murray and Roberts businesses intend to harness the powerful synergies that exist across Group, utilising the full weight of this expertise to explore opportunities and position itself to improve margins in a sustainable way that will benefit the business, its clients and the host country.

“At the same time, we are aware that each African nation has its own political structure, culture and statutory demands and thus a different entry strategy will apply and some will be more attractive to our business than others,“ he says.

“Among the opportunities identified so far, we’re particularly interested in the natural gas finds off the coast of Africa and in the Rift Valley,” he says. “The promise of energy from these sources will boost development in that part of the continent in the next ten to 15 years and a diverse construction and engineering business, such as ours, can contribute greatly to the many opportunities that this will create. We are also interested in the mineral and energy exploration in West Africa as there will be a growth of opportunity in this region.

“These opportunities can only be realised through a focussed strategy of engagement, and it’s all about co-ordinating the efforts of the Murray and Roberts Construction Group. Each business within the Group has its own expertise and part of my remit is to contribute to the process of identifying Group synergies and providing focus in order to put ourselves in a position to add real value to our clients’ investment strategies. “In Africa, our business offers the whole package and we will leverage this with great success in the future.”

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