How did the company work to improve processes during the pandemic?
ABDUL QADER MUBARAK Our brand has been in the market for a long time, and we have used this time to establish a reputation for quality and acquire certain certifications. Having a strong brand image really helps when we apply for housing or mega projects because such projects all require certified products. The certifications we have acquired and our reputation differentiate us from other companies in Saudi Arabia. In government projects, the first priority is local content, companies, and products. The housing sector is always looking for a trustworthy brand with certified products because that helps people get housing loans.
MUNTASER KALAHJI We invested heavily in our CNC machining lines and automation. We are determined to invest in our operation in order to become the “organization of tomorrow." We made large investments in CNC machining, acquiring, training, and developing young Saudi talent. Some of our senior staff wanted to go into retirement during the pandemic, and we compensated for the loss of experience by having new talent with automated production concept to maintain our highest standards of product quality and even better productivity. We grew in terms of our total headcount, investments, and introduction of new products and production lines. Our people are the most important asset. We have invested in protecting and developing our people, and eventually it pays off.
What is the company's approach to sustainability and environmental efficiency?
AQM Just like every other company in the region, we faced many challenges in 2015 when the oil price plunged. We restructured our company according to the changes in demand, market outlook, and market expectations. We worked on everything, including efficiency and value-added products. This is an ongoing process. Looking at the next five years, it is better to develop new projects at a slow pace because the need of the hour is to look at the construction sector with a long-term vision. In our line of business, it is hard to build your investment based on a five-year period; it is best to invest with the next 30 years in mind.
How have you capitalized on the shift toward more local content and local sourcing?
MK We are proud to be an integral part of the value chain for our customers. We are involved in every critical piece of equipment in the value chain of our end users. The localization program with IKTVA has been a great enabler for us to boost our vertical and horizontal integration initiatives and continue to invest in new expansions and assets. We have seen similar encouragement from all of our customers such as Aramco, SABIC, Maaden, and others.
Do you see your company growing more in Saudi Arabia or will you focus more on exports?
AQM We do not expect annual demand for steel in Saudi Arabia to exceed 10 million tons in the near future, so it is best to look at pushing exports. However, though we are interested in exports, our priority will always be the Saudi market. Except for countries like the US and China, the global steel industry is seeing weakening steel demand. This holds true for the MENA region as well as Europe, and the challenge is to find potential export markets.
What are your expectations for the coming year?
MK In general, last year, many new oil and gas CAPEX projects were postponed, which created more opportunities in OPEX projects geared to support current operations and production levels of existing plants. We have grown well products that are related to OPEX projects and compensated the drop in products that are CAPEX driven. Moving forward, we have an ambitious growth plan. With the partnerships we are establishing now and in line with the expansion of our portfolio offerings, our ambitious plan to grow is to grow by multi-fold in the next three years. We have done so in the past, so it is extremely doable. ✖