RIYADH: British public services firm Serco expects revenue and profit in the Middle East to rise in 2021 and is hoping to grow its business in Saudi Arabia this year, Phil Malem, the company’s CEO for the region, told Arab News.
“Our aspirations are to grow, certainly in terms of the government services sector. Our aim is to grow in the transportation sector, particularly in aviation, government and citizen services. We are quite confident of a positive year,” he said.
Operating in the Kingdom for a decade, the British company, which is headquartered in England, manages more than 500 global government contracts and employs more than 50,000 people.
Serco operates in a range of public service sectors, including health, transport, justice, immigration, defence and citizen services.
“We are hugely enthusiastic about the potential of the Kingdom and we have tried to grow in line with Saudi Vision 2030. We are passionate about the Saudization program. It’s a key part of our strategy. We have continued to recruit, train and develop skills in Saudi nationals who can make a difference in the organization,” Malem said.
The company made two prominent regional appointments late last year, including the recruitment of a Saudi woman to direct business in the Kingdom. Mona Althagafi was appointed as Serco Middle East Country Director for Saudi Arabia, becoming the first woman to be appointed as head of a Saudi public services company.
According to Malem, Serco has employed about 40 to 50 Saudi nationals in its team for the Kingdom and is looking forward to hiring and training more Saudi nationals across all levels of management.
In Saudi Arabia, Serco operates across a number of sectors, including fire and rescue services, airport services, the transportation sector and the railway system. “We help operate about 11 hospitals in the Kingdom,” Malem said.
He added that the potential pipeline of work is promising, and that Serco is hoping for more business once the aviation sector returns to normal.
International flights are suspended in the Kingdom due to coronavirus travel restrictions, but will resume on May 17, as announced by the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia.
Serco is also closely following the development of Saudi giga projects, such as NEOM and the Red Sea Development. “We are actively in discussion around the potential of helping in the project,” Malem said.
“We are also trying to see some progress in terms of the Public Investment Fund and the giga projects, which are really huge opportunities. We are hoping to get involved,” he added.
The last year has been challenging for all companies, but the pandemic also opened up opportunities for Serco to win potential contracts. “About 95 percent of our businesses are from frontline services, so that continued. We kept hospitals running, kept the transport system operating and available to use, and we are quite proud that we operated our client hospitals in the region within all aspects of PCR testing and quarantine,” Malem said.
Despite this success, Serco recently lost a high-profile contract in the UAE for the Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram.
Malem said: “Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in winning the RTA Dubai Metro contract when this came for renewal and so our tenure will come to an end at the end of September this year.
“We are disappointed not to have won this bid, but we remain proud of our service to the RTA over the past decade. We will work with the new concessionaire to ensure a smooth transition and handover as we demobilize our operations at Dubai Metro.”
However, Serco was successful in signing a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company G42.
The partnership aims to combine resources, capabilities and core competencies in a non-equity agreement to deliver fully integrated transformations of multi-faceted public services to both existing and new clients.
Malem said: “G42 is a brilliant organization with smart people in the sector who are looking to have support from businesses to be able to deliver solutions and provide innovative services to governments and clients across the region.”