The 10 largest contractors of public works

Thousands of companies (more specifically, over 2,600) were awarded contracts for public works in the OSG between 2009 and 2015. But the playing field is by no means level. Despite a multitude of successful bidders, a large part of the monies handed out in the past 7 years, which are recorded in the OSG, is concentrated in the hands of the few.

Of the total €38.8 billion, more than €9.6bn (25%) was directly awarded to one of the ten major construction groups: ACS, Acciona, FCC, Ferrovial, Sacyr, Isolux Corsán, Villar Mir, Comsa, Copisay Grupo Sando. And that's not all. If we add to this figure the amount granted to the Temporary Joint Ventures of which some of these ten are a part, the total rises to more than 74%. This means that the big ten were present in seven of every ten euros awarded via these contracts or, to put it another way - although it may prove more difficult to take in - in €28.8 billion of the total €38.8bn.

These figures have been gleaned from analyzing all contracts for public works published in the OSG - why the OSG?- between 2009 and 2015 - why these years?. On one side, we can add up everything they received directly, when one of the companies was the successful sole bidder on a contract. On the other, we can calculate the total from the contracts awarded to TJV made up in part by one of the 10 'big ones'. These two calculations are separate, as we can never know exactly how much of the awarded TJV contract goes to a specific company - why don't we know how the contract is shared out in the TJVs?. Thus, when we note that a company 'is present' on a contract, we do not mean that they earn the full sum awarded.

These 'big 10' of the construction industry have something else in common: all have witnessed their brands being implicated in one or more corruption scandals. One thing holds true: there are marked differences in terms of the level of involvement demonstrated in each case. In certain ones, we're talking about subpoenas in on-going investigations which may come to nothing, and in others, the arrest of senior company officials, such as in the case of the Sumarrocas.

ACS, undisputed leader

The group chaired by Florentino Pérez, who holds the same post at Real Madrid, ranks top of the leaderboard. Both as a single entity and directly (some 7% of the total awarded compared to 3% for the groups trailing behind) and when taken together with the TJVs it forms part of, pushing it up to 17%), no other construction company can compete. It is featured in almost 2 out of every 10 contracts for public works in the OSG over the past 7 years.

The 6th largest construction company in the world has earned over €2.7bn just on public works, and not including the many thousands of contracts it has been awarded for the provision of services such as cleaning. And that's not all. We also need to add what it earns through its participation in TJVs. Trailing Fomento, which ranks top of all lists, its top contractors are all in the capital: the Madrid City Council, and the Community of Madrid. Its percentage share of the total has increased steadily since 2012 until its peak in 2015, in which companies within the group took, directly, 14% of the total funds awarded for that year.

Led by Vías y Construcciones and Dragados, its two battering rams, the group counts within its ranks advisers such as Miquel Roca, draftsman of the Constitution, ex-deputy of CiU and lawyer representing Cristina de Borbón, Princess of Spain, in the Nóos prosecution case. ACS' administrative board also includes Miguel Blesa, ex-president of CajaMadrid Bank who was investigated for irregularities during his tenure; and Javier Monzón, ex-president of Indra.

The gap between ACS and the rest of the aforementioned construction companies widens in the most buoyant of the years analyzed, such as 2009, during which it earned - independently (not as part of a TJV) - almost €1.2bn, compared to the €0.6bn earned by Acciona, less than half. In fact, the other 9 groups only managed to surpass ACS in 2 of the 7 years analyzed.

In 2012, Ferrovial took the lead thanks in large part to being awarded several sections of works on the AVE railway to Galicia (Padornuelo-Lubián and Túnel de Espiño).This group is headed by Rafael del Pino, son of its founder and nephew of former President Calvo-Sotelo.

In 2011, Acciona (second in global ranking) was top of the list of single-entity awards that year, thanks to the construction of the new Teruel hospital (over €73 million) and the Ribeira harbor in A Coruña (almost €15 million), among other road and infrastructure contracts. Pío Cabanillas, spokesman for Aznar, has been the company's CEO since 2007. Miriam González, wife of Nick Clegg, who was Deputy Prime Minister to David Cameron in the UK, served as adviser from 2010 to 2014.

However, the reins of Acciona are handed down, as with many of the large companies featuring on this list , from father to son. At the helm of the group is the Entrecanales family, with Juan Ignacio as vice president and José Manuel Entrecanalesas president. In fact, Acciona's leader is also president of the business organization Family Business Institute (Instituto de Empresa Familiar in Spanish), a position he combines with his patronage of the two foundations linked to the Crown, Princess of Girona and Princess of Asturias, that of the Prado Museum and his participation in the gatherings of the Air Bridge Forum (Foro Puento Aereo).


Acciona is not the only family business to feature on the list of heavyweights in the field of public construction works in Spain. Grupo Villar Mir , headed by former minister, marquis, multiple award winner and omnipresent Juan Miguel Villar Mir, also fits the profile.

In fact, this very year he passed the baton of the flagship, OHL, to his son, Juan Villar-Mir De Fuentes, who has been chairman of the company ever since. The former minister Josep Piqué was, until last June, the company's CEO.

The dynasty continued when Villar Mir made his son-in-law advisor to the construction company. Javier López Madrid was one of the advisers who sat at the table of Bankia when the hole in funds was discovered, right before its nationalization, besides appearing to be implicated in several recent scandals, such as the Púnica case.

Although OHL leads the percentage of contracts awarded within the group - 48% of the total amount - there are also other notable, but less well-known companies featured, such as Construcciones Adolfo Sobrino, with 13%.

Villar Mir was the only group whose contracts increased while the nine other construction companies saw the bulk of their awards reduced in 2010 compared to the previous year – part of the Zapatero era. Of course, the years in which it attained the highest percentages of the total amount of awarded contracts were 2012, 2014 and 2015, which were under a Government of the PP.

Two families … and the Pujols

Speaking of family dynasties, Comsa Emte brought two together with its merger: the Sumarrocas, from Emte, and the Miarnaus, from Comsa, who head the company with a 70% share, as well as with two family members, -José Miarnau as president and Jorge Miarnau as CEO. They head the company alone after the Sumarrocas were implicated in a long list of scandals. So concerning were these, that the company went on to be called simply Comsa Corporation, dropping the Emte part of the name completely.

Impeached and even detained - both the father of the dynasty, Carles Sumarroca Coixet, founding member of the CDC party and linked to Jordi Pujol, as well as his 2 sons: Carles Sumarroca Claverol, one-time vice president of the group, and Jordi Sumarroca, appear to be involved in the so-called '3%' cases , or the payment of commissions to public offices in return for contracts, and to the Pujol family's undeclared fortunes. Jordi, for example, was arrested in his own home in connection with the Operación Petrum, an investigation into the payment of commissions to the mayor of Torredembarra, and spent a few weeks behind bars.

For these reasons the Sumarrocas have disappeared - in all including their name - from the construction company, despite continuing to hold a 30% share. However, if we analyze the contracts that they were awarded over the last 7 years, Comsa encompasses 90% of these.

Catalonia is the primary focus of Comsa Emte's public business. In fact, some €7 billion of the €20bn it shares in are contributed by this autonomous community. Between the Barcelona City Council and the Generalitat de Catalunya they have received €1.5 billion, directly, in just the last 7 years.

We can also link the Pujols to Copisa, known in Spanish as Constructora Pirenáica SA and headed by Josep Cornadó Mateu, who was awarded a medal of Merit at Work. Cornadó testified before a judge that he had paid commissions to Jordi Pujol Ferrusola. This is also recorded in the UDEF's reporton the Bárcenas Papers.

Another construction company from this list which is implicated in the investigation into the Partido Popular's slush funds is José Luís Sánchez Domínguez, president of the Grupo Sando. Although he features as a PP donor in the Bárcenas Papers, the judge ruled that he had committed no crimes. He was also accused of being behind the financial holeuncovered in the construction works for the Port of Malaga.

When talking about families and construction companies, we mustn't forget the Koplowitzes. Their dynasty continues under the control of Esther Alcocer Koplowitz, daughter of one of the sisters and Alberto Alcocer, and who is the company president. The majority of its assets and the board of managers now belong to the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim. Other notable shareholders include some of the world's richest men such as Bill Gates or, indirectly, George Soros.

FCC, the group's parent company, dominates the awarded contracts, with 80% of the total allotted to the group not including TJVs. Two other groups on this list, Isolux Corsán and Sacyr, focus public contracts on their lead companies. The first is Corsán-Corviam Construcción. The second is the company of the same name, Sacyr.

The head of Isolux Corsán, Nemesio Fernández Cuesta, has spent most of his career working at Repsol. He was also Secretary of State in the first Aznar government and from there went on to become head of ABC, a post he held until 2013, when his niece took over. He is the son of one of Arias Navarro's ministers and María Victoria Luca de Tena, granddaughter of ABC's founder.

Headed by Manuel Manrique, who is also vice president of Repsol, Sacyr has been able to count in its ranks, among others, Juan Abelló, one of Spain's richest men. At present, its vicepresident is Demetrio Carceller, heir to Damm, a mainstay of the Ibex 35. He avoided prison on charges of tax evasion thanks to paying a fine of €93 million.

Of the more than 8,000 contracts awarded in these seven years via the OSG, more than 2,300 carried the name of one of these ten 'giants' of public works.