Dubai plea for project financiers

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Project finance specialists are in such short supply in the Middle East that the oil-fired trajectory of infrastructure investment in the region risks crash landing.

Local recruiters say there are simply too few experienced project finance people to plan, oversee and execute the US$1.3 trillion worth of oil and gas, petrochemicals or infrastructure schemes lined up by Gulf Cooperation Council governments and companies between now and 2012.

Barbara Van Meir, director of financial services at WoodHamill Ingram, says: "As many teams in the region are expanding, and have often doubled in size over the past year or two, there is an increasing dearth of project finance professionals, particularly in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia."

The result, says Alastair Chell, banking consultant with Charterhouse Partnership, is that candidates with no regional experience are being recruited from Europe to fill the void and local corporate and structured finance folk are being pressed into project finance roles.

Van Meir tells us she is recruiting suitable project finance expertise from mature financial centres such as London or Edinburgh, but equally from less well-known locations including Johannesburg or Sydney.

The varied backgrounds of candidates makes generalisations on the value of compensation packages difficult, say recruiters. But Chell tells us someone at director or VP level with six years' project finance experience can command a basic of US$165k to US$250k a year and a benchmark 100% bonus.

But he warns that while firms with deal flow from day one can guarantee bonuses, some start-up shops are struggling to gain deal traction which can leave bonus potential in doubt.

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