by Reece Crowe
An important player has consolidated its position in the global market of infrastructure: Webuild, previously known globally as Salini Impregilo, changed its name during its industrial consolidation process, a process which will transform the group into one of the top players in Europe.
In the midst of the Coronavirus global crisis, which caused many countries to close their construction sites, Italy gave an important signal to the sector’s revival, by completing the new Genoa bridge, built in just a few months by the Webuild group, and also by beginning works on strategic infrastructure in the South of Italy, part of the TEN-T network of corridors foreseen by the European Union. High-speed railways and new motorways are just some of Webuild’s current ongoing projects in the South of Italy..
During this phase of uncertainty on the global markets, the birth of the new group is considered by many to be one of the most significant financial and industrial operations in Europe. This systemic operation, where the new brand (as stated in a press note) was approved by the Shareholders’ Meeting with the aim of creating « a group capable of participating in the relaunch of the Italian economy through an infrastructural investment plan resulting in the immediate creation of thousands of jobs», thereby better targeting global markets, as a pure player of the large complex infrastructure sector.
OCSE and IMF and other important global institutions have recently confirmed the strategic significance of infrastructural investments to guarantee a post-crisis economic recovery, through the activation of a traditionally anti-cyclic lever. Italy, with a 2020 GDP decrease of 9.1% (IMF forecast) is one of those countries that needs such an impulse more than others; between 2009 and 2017 infrastructural investments went from €29 to €16 billion, causing the sector to lose over 600,000 jobs.
The Webuild group was created to contribute to the revival of the sector in Italy, relaunching large infrastructural works in the country, as well as competing in some of the largest international projects, where the group generates over 90% of its revenue. This is the strategic line drawn by the group’s CEO, Pietro Salini, who during recent years set the growth and consolidation process to follow a progressive dimensional expansion, with the acquisition of increasingly vertical competencies. An increasing focus on large global complex infrastructural projects, and sectors with high sustainability targets (sustainable mobility, clean hydro energy, clean water, green buildings); investments in innovation and the search for young talent. Efficiency, high productivity levels, high performance and delivery standards to meet client requirements in different countries, with different cultures and above all quality: these are the principles on which Pietro Salini structured the group’s growth strategy.
«In this very critical international situation – said Pietro Salini – groups like ours, which build large infrastructure, must energetically embrace the necessary change, and be ready to face a completely different scenario. Just like at the end of WWII, our economies are in urgent need of a shared strategic plan, and financial resources to invest in an extensive collective project which through infrastructure, is capable of improving the lives of many people, while also creating employment. We must be prepared to build beautiful, useful works in the shortest time possible, projects thought for people.»
In Italy the group is completing the new Genoa bridge, Milan’s metro, high-speed railways and various motorway networks in the South of the country, whilst in the rest of the world it is building strategic projects for the growth of the respective territories, focusing particularly on the United States, where in 2016 the group acquired Lane Construction, to strengthen its geographical presence on the market. Ongoing works include the new Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, which will connect the port of Long Beach to the Californian mainland; the high-speed railway project, in Texas; the largest hydroelectric plant in Australian history, Snowy 2.0; the new metros in Paris, Doha and Riyadh; and the Al Bayt stadium, one of the stadiums to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
These are just some of the works in the group’s portfolio; a group with over 110 years of history that is active in 50 countries. The group, whose origins lie in the merging of various companies aims firstly at dimensional growth, vital to be able to face the challenges of the international markets with quintessential competitiveness and overcome the fragmentation of the Italian market. This result has been achieved thanks to Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and a pool of banks entering the project. The union between Salini Impregilo/Webuild and Astaldi therefore becomes the starting point for an even greater initiative of aggregation, in which the main Italian companies of the sector have been invited to participate, and which will place the group among the top infrastructure groups in Europe.
The project was conceived by Webuild’s CEO, Pietro Salini, who, during recent years, has led one of the most significant industrial consolidation processes, transforming his family company, Salini, into a global giant. The first objective of the group, which will employ 70,000 people (130,000 considering all related sectors of activity), will be the enhancement of the know-how of the best Italian companies, to aggressively compete on the global market of large infrastructural projects.
The inspiring principle of this new reality is the “Made in Italy” one, somewhat different to the one connected to fashion and artisan products. This “Made in Italy”, instead, is inspired by industrial principles, with a strong proneness for innovation and new technologies. A “Made in Italy” based on passion for what is beautiful and well made, as is the case of the new Genoa bridge, designed by Architect Renzo Piano, in addition to the organizational and managerial capacity and complex project management efficiency of the leading players of the sector.
Once this health emergency is over, the economic crisis born through the Coronavirus pandemic will cause all the countries in the world to face a unique historical moment: The moment to reconstruct. Webuild, in this context, does not only represent the challenge of a single company, but that of an entire nation, firmly convinced that an essential part of its future is tied to the important role of infrastructure.
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