Binladen Group denies takeover by Saudi government

Its chairman has been detained, but Saudi Arabia’s biggest builder, Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), insists that it remains a "private company owned by its shareholders", and that it is continuing to work on its government contracts.

The company made the claim on Friday (12 January) following reports that the state had effectively taken over the firm.

Caught up in the country’s recent crackdown on suspected corruption, the firm has, however, warned that some shareholders "may have agreed a settlement that involves transferring some SBG shares to the government of Saudi Arabia against outstanding dues".

It portrayed this as a "positive step", and said it was "restructuring its governance and executive management teams to meet its commitment to all stakeholders", in a statement.

The chairman of SBG, Bakr bin Laden, is among the 150 Saudi notables who are being detained in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton as a result of the anti-corruption crackdown instigated by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in November. Salman is aiming to claw back $100bn from individuals and entities, and is making settlement offers to many of those suspected of making illegal profits.

The company is presently engaged on number of high-profile projects, including some at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Quba Mosque in Medina and a huge expansion of King Abdul Aziz international airport outside Jeddah (pictured).

Given the importance of these contracts, it was expected that the Saudi state would take over the company’s board and some of its assets, but keep it intact to help with plans to diversify Saudi Arabia’s petro-economy.

SBG remains the largest contractor in the kingdom, however its commercial fortunes have waned over the past three years, partly as a result of the fall in state oil revenues and partly as a result of a crane accident that killed 107 people at the Grand Mosque in 2015 (see "further reading"). This led to a temporary exclusion from new state contracts and caused thousands of layoffs.

Image: SBG is engaged on number of high-profile projects, including a huge expansion of King Abdul Aziz International Airport, to be expanded from 13 million to 80 million to cater to Hajj pilgrims (ADP)

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