Sweett mulls future of Middle East business

The UK-based construction consultancy Sweett Group said it is considering “strategic options” for its struggling Middle East division after announcing a deal with Currie & Brown to sell its Asia Pacific and India businesses for £9.3 million (Dh52.8m).

The company said that its Middle East arm, which employs 90 people across four offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and Muscat, has had a “challenging first six months” of its current financial year. In its last financial year, the company’s Middle East arm reported an operating loss before goodwill write-offs and exceptionals of £1.2m as revenues fell by one-third to £6.6m.

Sweett Group is currently the subject of an investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, which is looking into allegations that a former Dubai-based executive had sought payments from an architecture company in return for the award of a contract to build a hospital in Morocco. The company has had to hire its own independent investigators, and it racked up £1.7m in exceptional expenses last year which it said were mainly incurred as a result of both its own and the Serious Fraud Squad’s investigations.

The sale of the Asia Pacific division will lead to a writedown in its accounts of about £10m as it had a book value of £19m. However, Sweett Group’s chief executive Douglas McCormick said the deal “will allow us to reduce debt significantly, improve the working capital dynamics of the group and invest in our growing and cash generative businesses in Europe”, as well as helping to rebalance its risk profile.

Sweett Group has had a presence in the Middle East for almost 10 years and has worked on high-profile projects including the Masdar City master plan and the Four Seasons hotel in Abu Dhabi, as well as the Dubai Metro project and the new Capital Markets Authority tower within Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District. Current projects include advising Emaar’s hospitality business on the rollout of its mid-market Rove Hotels brand. The Middle East business also oversees an office in Sri Lanka.


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