European Construction Companies as Global Players Towards the New Millennium

  • Bernd Siehler

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In the 1990s, globalisation became the 'Zeitgeist', with commercial companies striving to become "global players". Under these globalising influences, European construction companies have to respond to a significant reorientation of their markets, which range from the Domestic to the European and the Global markets. They have, therefore, to formulate global strategies to create and sustain competitive positions. This thesis reviews organisation and management theory on global strategies, and applies this theory to examine how a sample of European contractors has approached this strategic challenge.

    In this thesis "global player" is defined qualitatively as a firm that regards the whole world as a playing field, and shows that some European contractors are leading global players. This research study determines the global position, applied global strategies and competitive advantage of the top European international contractors, for three market levels (Domestic, European and Global) and also for individual international markets. For this, a research model has been developed to illustrate a logical relationship of the factors and markets which influence the position of a company, via global strategies, to a proposed global organisation based on the principles of "glocalisation". In part inspired by Porter's (1990) work, competitive advantage of contractors has also been examined in relation to home country specific characteristics. Furthermore Michael Porter's (1980) 'five forces model' has been developed to the special characteristics of the construction industry, from a contractors perspective, into a 'seven forces model'.

    The study is carried out by means of in-depth interviews with executives from 11 UK and 11 German top international contractors. In addition, 68 interviews were conducted with European contractors in South East Asia (Indonesia 21; Laos 3; Malaysia 11; Singapore 3; Thailand 14; Vietnam 5); and the United Arab Emirates 11). Comparative analysis between the two contracting nations (UK and Germany), market levels, individual overseas markets and European contracting nations (France, Holland, Italy, Sweden) is carried out using quantitative and qualitative measurements. This information was supplemented by semi-structured qualitative case studies of European contractors as global players, so the applying a holistic approach to the research methodology.

    The study reveals that the power of the seven competitive forces is similar in each market, whilst the competition structure among contractors differed between each market, which is partly explained due to contractors' nationality. The study shows that successful strategies and operational performance of European global contractors in international contracting are especially dependent on certain markets and certain time periods, which makes them distinct global players. This non-homogenous market behaviour is proven by the underlying theory that positioning factors, global strategies in part and competitive advantage differ between markets and contractors.

    It is suggested that the top European contractors are global players. In their search for sustainable global, regional and local competitive advantage, towards the new millennium, they may be able to alleviate national barriers and differences among the markets from a superior global position in the ideal form of a global organisation. The realisation of glocalisation might then replace nation-specific advantages by global ownership.
    Date of AwardNov 1999
    Original languageEnglish


    • organization and management theory
    • global strategies
    • Europe
    • Construction industry

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