Plenary’s Paul Crowe on Middle East, as public officials welcome investor’s renewed commitment

Plenary chief investment officer Paul Crowe has told Partnerships Bulletin about his firm’s plans to grow its Middle East presence.

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Following the launch of Plenary’s second office in the region, Plenary is looking to get involved in a series of projects in the Middle East as its expansion continues.

“We have confidence in the UAE government’s commitment of attracting private capital investment in the pursuit of PPP and PPP-like projects, and we are investing in establishing a team locally to partner with the government in delivering these projects,” Crowe said.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office recently announced plans for a $2.72bn PPP pipeline including, in May this year, Zayed City Schools – Plenary’s first project in the Middle East and the region’s first ever integrated education PPP.

The Zayed City Schools project includes the design, build, finance, maintenance and transfer of three new school campuses with a capacity of 5,360 students in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed City. Construction on site is expected to start this year and be completed in August 2024, with schools opening in September 2024.

“We see the opportunities in the UAE as mainly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai where we have established a presence, but also across the broader UAE. In fact, the UAE could become a hub for PPPs in the region… we are pleased to be involved at an early stage, working alongside such willing government partners and some of the global companies who have established relationships in Australia and North America,” said Crowe.

In a recent effort to encourage investment into the UAE, Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced a new law on PPPs, which is expected to enable cost savings and integrate public and private sector technologies.

The Dubai Department of Finance announced $6.81bn of new PPP projects in October 2021, includes projects across healthcare, urban development, public transport, waste management and water.

“The visibility of the potential project pipeline makes the UAE a very exciting market for us. We are currently shortlisted on another UAE PPP project and are actively bidding on others in the area or establishing consortia, with an initial focus on Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Northern Emirates and Bahrain,” said Crowe.

The Plenary CIO highlighted social infrastructure, specifically education and health, and transport infrastructure, specifically rail and road projects as potential PPP target sectors.

Crowe said there would be further PPP opportunities in the Middle East in the medium to long term.

“There are significant infrastructure challenges in the region and the adoption of the PPP model is proving to be a useful way for governments to partner with the private sector with a focus on delivering quality infrastructure through disciplined procurement, robust risk transfer, and inclusion of long-term whole-of-life objectives.

“Of course, each jurisdiction will need to develop its own policy, procurement methodology and PPP centre of excellence to support the broadening of this approach in the region,” he said.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s deputy director of economic and trade affairs, Rashed Abdulla Alteneiji told Partnerships Bulletin: “Plenary’s launch in Dubai reflects the UAE’s flexible and attractive business environment characterised by the ease of doing business, fast duration to set up offices, and the numerous incentives provided to investors to expand in the UAE. I wish Plenary all the best in their endeavours in the UAE as they represent a successful example of perusing, following and implementing their expansion vision.”

Abu Dhabi Investment Office acting director General Eng. Abdulla Abdul Aziz AlShamsi added: “PPP projects have played an important role in developing key infrastructure in Abu Dhabi, while creating significant investment opportunities for businesses.

“The Abu Dhabi government continues to ramp up its partnership with the private sector by facilitating more projects for participation.”