Daily Commercial News and Construction Record

Thursday, March 11, 1976

Farha scoops $37M contract from Arabs

OTTAWA – (CP) – Fred Farha tried last year to expand from his Ottawa-based real estate development business to form a Canadian-Arab development consortium that would – for a fee – assist member compa-nies in making business deals in the oil-rich Arab states.

But there were few takers. Farha, a 41-year-old Lebanese-born Canadian with experience in the interna-tional money markets, said Canadian companies were not convinced they could crack the Arab market. So the consortium concept was “put on ice” and Farha went looking for opportunities for his own Fundmore Corp. (Canada) Ltd. Saudi Arabia was chosen as the prime target after several scouting trips during which business contracts were made and renewed.

Last week, Farha and two associates returned with a $37 million contract for the design and construction of a group of apartment buildings in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital.

They believe it is the first major deal obtained by a Canadian company in the Arab world, with the exception of consulting contracts. Under the contract, Fundmore and several associated Ontario construction and design companies will build a 350-unit housing unit, for Prince Dandar Bin Muhammad Bin Abdul-Rahman A-Saud, nephew of the Saudi king. It will feature 10 buildings of six storeys grouped around a swimming pool and shopping arcade. Construction is to begin Aug. 1 with completion planned for October, 1978.

The turnkey project, in which the Canadian companies will be responsible for all detailsm will involve importing 150 skilled workers from other countries and the hiring of about x50 local laborers. Temporary recreation and housing facilities for the imported workers are include a swimming pool and billiard tables.

In addition, Fundmore and the companies working with it will buy and transport to Riyadh about $3 million worth of equipment, “everything from pencils to bulldozers.”

Farha said the equipment investment is being made with the conviction that other contracts will follow. He said offers to design and build two hotels and a shopping centre were declined on the recent trip so the company could concentrate on “making a first-class show” of the apartments.

Previously, the six-year-old Fundmore Corp. and three other companies in the Farha Group have won contracts for designing, building, managing and arranging financing for residential, commercial and industrial projects in Canada, the United States and Caribbean countries.

Farha is convinced the potential for Canadian companies in the Arab world is enormous, and he hopes success of his own companies in Saudi Arabia will generate faith in the concept of the Canadian-Arab development consortium.

Business opportunities are currently being lost to British, French, German and Japanese firms who have financial help from their governments.

Farha said Canadian companies should receive subsidies from the government to compete for contracts in Arab states.

What the companies need , the most, however, is assistance in locating business opportunities and in Arab negotiating met odd, language and culture.

Farha said the development consortium could provide this assistance. He admitted to having an edge on other Canadians with hit background in and knowledge of the Arab world – he writes and speaks Arabic – and business contacts from two years of arranging private financing for projects on the international money market in Zurich, Switzerland.

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