Saint-Gobain targets 100 projects

Saint-Gobain is banking on demand for its plasterboard products from the Middle East to achieve a targeted growth of 15 per cent in 2010. (SUPPLIED)

Saint-Gobain Gyproc sees the Middle East as a very important region and is increasing its presence, according to a senior official. "We hope to work on 100 projects by this year end," Craig Chambers, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain Gyproc told Emirates Business. "We are expanding our resources and will bring a number of new products into the market over the next 12 months."

In April, Saint-Gobain Gyproc opened its new plasterboard manufacturing facility in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD). The facility is the first-of-its-kind for the French company and local partner, Sultan International Holdings, in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, and represents an investment of more than $60 million (Dh220m). The company will be able to produce 30 million square metres of plasterboard from the 70-hectare site each year.

Could you elaborate on the Saint-Gobain venture?

In 2004, we were a trading company and were importing products from sister companies in Thailand and Malaysia until we set up the factory in 2010. Saint-Gobain wanted a presence in the region and we committed to this factory in 2007.

Saint-Gobain is increasing its presence in the region through other acquisitions. We have recently entered into a joint venture with Sadamco. As Gyproc, we are responsible for the Middle East and the GCC in particular. But we are also looking at Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and will use the factory in Abu Dhabi to meet the needs of those markets. We will be able to offer bespoke products on a five day lead time for non-standard products. We could not do that with imports.

So what has the year-on-year growth curve been in the past two years?

We saw a 25 per cent to 30 per cent growth at end-2008 but 2009 was a bad year for the construction industry. We saw a serious decline of around 30 per cent in volumes. We are steady this year but see some growth in the latter part of 2010. We expect 15 per cent growth as compared to last year.

Any major projects in your portfolio?

We have worked on Yas Island Hotel, Capital Gate, Masdar City and Ferarri World in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Metro and Marina 23 in Dubai.

Are you participating in any major tenders? Do you see a shift in the market?

At any one time, we are working on 40 to 50 projects and hope to work on 100 by the year-end. The news on Nakheel making payments is giving confidence to the market and the industry also seems more confident that the market will make a comeback by the end of the year, though not to 2007 or 2008 levels.

Who are your key clients?

We supply the market through distribution but we also work with architects, contractors and consultants, particularly on specifications of multi-storeyed buildings. We strategically like to work with those who have demanding needs. In the Middle East, block works are traditionally used in projects and we are trying to penetrate that market with our drywall products which have quicker build time and better acoustics.

Are you planning to increase the capacity of your factory by this year end?

We are not running to capacity and believe that the current production will see us through the next two or three years.

How do you tackle issues of payments?

We give no credit but work through post-dated cheques and bank guarantees.

What are your plans for the coming year?

We have doubled our sales team despite the recession and are expanding our resources in the Northern Emirates and in Oman. We have also strengthened our resources in Qatar and Bahrain and are now taking a much harder look at Saudi Arabia besides exploring possibilities in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. We are also planning to focus on the building system rather than the product. Hence, we have a significant product development programme where we will bring a number of new products into the market over the next 12 months. We are also keen to work with the authorities on specifications and will be actively involved with Civil Defence and other bodies as well as getting involved in discussions on building codes related to fire and safety.

Any investments in research and development offering region-specific solutions?

Yes. We are looking at systems solutions suited to this market which is different from other markets. For example, Capital Gate is an unusual building in terms of design and its 18-degree incline. The service shaft walls were extremely complicated to meet fire regulation specifications but we worked closely with the client and design consultants. It would not have been possible if we had treated it as just a drywall and seen ourselves as just a manufacturer.

 

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