Proud of our history - confident in our future
#Building on strong foundations
While the BESIX Watpac story starts now, our history stretches more than a century and touches almost every continent.
When the Belgium-based international contractor BESIX Group acquired Watpac Limited in 2018, it was the merging of two great companies - aligned through an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, values of hard work, decency, and innovation, and underpinned by a strong people-first ethos.
Gregory Douglas Watkins - Founding Chairman
Watpac has been part of Australia’s contracting fabric for nearly four decades. In fact, the story dates back all the way to the early part of the 1900s when the Watkins family formed a building company in Cairns. From those early days was born a substantive part of the company we recognise today – once known as Watkins Pacific, which was founded by Gregory Douglas Watkins and his family, in 1983.
Listed on the Australian Stock Exchange two years later as Watpac, the company grew and developed through the 1980s and 1990s - acquiring businesses in Mackay and opening offices on the Gold Coast, Townsville, Cairns, and later in Canberra.
The company also ventured offshore obtaining four subsidiaries in Hawaii including the Honolulu Roofing Company and had a brief presence in Vietnam.
Watpac left its mark on the Queensland landscape during this substantial growth period with major projects such as The Brisbane Entertainment Centre, restoration of Brisbane City Hall, Dockside, the Sheraton Mirage, Marina Mirage and SeaWorld Nara Resorts.
Significant sporting icons received a face-lift with projects at Ballymore, the Brisbane Cricket Ground (the Gabba), and in 2001 the $280 million joint venture redevelopment of Lang Park (Suncorp Stadium).
The company went from strength to strength, adding to its impressive list of projects Brisbane’s Wintergarden centre and Queen Street Mall, the City Watchhouse and Arrest Courts, Queens Plaza Retail Centre, Admiralty Towers, the Townsville Entertainment Centre, Couran Cove Resort on South Stradbroke Island, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast, the Mater Private Hospital operating theatres and the Qantas Founders’ Museum in Longreach to name a few.
In 2004 Watpac ventured into the New South Wales market by acquiring Grant Constructions, initially delivering several commercial buildings including The Zone in Sydney Olympic Park.
North of the border, the team secured the $152 million Skilled Park Stadium on the Gold Coast and that year moved its headquarters to newly built premises in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
Three years later, further growth saw Watpac acquire Melbourne company JA Dodd, kicking off with substantial upgrades to four railway stations across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. More complex projects would follow, such as the construction of Albert Park Secondary College.
Watpac was also awarded its first major defence contract with the $211 million Single LEAP accommodation project.
Another acquisition, JMS Civil & Mining in 2008, expanded the company into Adelaide and Perth – an entity that was later renamed Watpac Civil & Mining.
Civil and mining contracts worth more than $300 million followed in Western Australia, and our educational, science and medical credentials expanded with the $62 million RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne and the $80 million Cochlear Global Headquarters in Sydney.
Other big projects of this period included the $365 million Boggo Road Urban Village and Knowledge Based Research and Business project in Brisbane, and the $138 million 8 Central Avenue project, a new home for Channel 7 and Pacific Magazines in Sydney. In 2009 Watpac undertook the $126 million redevelopment of the Gold Coast’s Carrara Stadium to house the AFL’s 17th national team.
By 2010, the company had just under 1000 employees Australia-wide with offices in Brisbane, Townsville, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Reserve Bank of Australia
Taking on more specialist projects, Watpac was trusted with the delivery of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s highly secure National Banknote Site and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s new Nuclear Medicine manufacturing facility; both demanding the highest levels of safety and security compliance.
The internationally acclaimed $597 million Central Park Precinct in Sydney was the biggest project to date and a sustainability landmark for Watpac with it’s amazing sky garden and 100-tonne heliostat.
We rounded out the second decade of the century delivering the once in a generation $318 million Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.
Today, our Townsville team remains one of our most important, servicing the growing demands of north Queensland.
Above: Ferrari World
#International capability and strength
On the other side of the world, three Dutch brothers also turned a dream into reality with the beginnings of the BESIX Group; founded in 1909 with start-up capital of 100 000 golden francs. It was known as the Belgian Concrete and Tubular Flooring Company "Société Belge des Bétons" (SBB).
Relocating from Antwerp to Brussels in 1910, the company went on to sign prestigious construction projects through the early part of the 20th century; expanding into France, Spain and the West African markets over the decades that followed. Signature projects included the expansion of the Port of Valencia beginning in 1922; the upgrading and modernisation of the Brussels-Charleroi Canal in 1923 and 1949 respectively; and the Kabalo-Kabongo railway line construction in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 1950s.
In 1966, the six companies of SBB Group formed Six Construct to manage large projects in the Middle East. By 2015, the company had celebrated 50 years in this market, having delivered a significant portion of the region’s iconic infrastructure including the Dubai international airport’s impressive control tower, Port Qaboos in Oman; major hospitals for the Saudi Arabian National Guard in Riyadh and Jeddah; and the Diwan (administrative palace) for the ruler of Dubai.
Expanding rapidly over the following two decades, the company entered the Eastern European market, and re-entered the Netherlands and Egypt.
By 2004, a new corporate identity was developed and SBB became BESIX Group.
Six years later, the company proudly delivered the world’s tallest building, the iconic Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It was just one of numerous acclaimed projects that the Group would deliver, including the ground-breaking Dubai Canal, the world’s largest museum in Egypt and the landmark Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
The BESIX Group entered Australia in 2011, winning its first contract for marine infrastructure - the Chevron Wheatstone LNG project in Western Australia. Seven years later it strengthened its position with the acquisition of Watpac, and in doing so, made Australia the Group’s third global home market.
Today Watpac is integrated into BESIX Group and has unfettered access to international experience, enhanced technical capabilities and greater financial strength.
Together we are BESIX Watpac; proud of our rich and diverse history and confident in our future.
Below: Princess Elisabeth Antarctica