How do you expect investment activity in the refinery and energy spheres to evolve in the coming years?
Regarding upstream investment activities, we have seen new players enter the country with new contracts for smaller, mature oil blocks. However, these new investors continue to seek financing sources to fund their own operations. This places pressure on local contractors to provide financing by means of delayed payments for engineering and construction services. On a positive note, the government is putting these oil fields in the hands of the private sector, which should lead to more efficient and productive extraction of resources. In the downstream sector, there is much to do regarding the rehabilitation of the Esmeraldas Refinery, the largest in Ecuador. Currently, these initiatives are stalled due to legal processes, and once these are resolved, a new stage of investment can begin. We are optimistically awaiting this new period of projects that will stimulate local engineering and construction companies.
How much activity is there in terms of hydropower projects?
In Ecuador, there are currently small-scale hydroelectric projects in the planning phase because of the significant capacity that has been installed over the past decade. There is still some work to be done as not all of the major hydroelectric plants installed are working at full capacity. When all are operational, there should not be any need for new hydropower projects other than perhaps some small developments. We expect opportunities in thermoelectric power, as there should be proportional balance in order to meet the country's needs during periods of droughts. In the case of Ecuador, we have a significant capacity in hydro but a limited thermal capacity.
What are your current projects in Ecuador?
We mainly focus on the oil and gas and the power generation sectors, as the industrial sector is limited. There are a few opportunities in the industrial sector for a company like ours, with high quality and safety standards akin to the oil, power, and mining industries. If the country and the current industries enter a growing phase of expansion projects, perhaps we will see more opportunities. We are a full-service engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) and commissioning contractor and currently have the capacity to develop anything the industry might need. We have experience in 18 countries in Latin America; however, we work mainly in Ecuador. We continually look for opportunities in other countries.
How do you stay competitive and remain one of the leading EPC contractors?
Innovation is difficult when one is trying to survive, which has been the case for the last three years. We have several factors of differentiation with respect to other companies, though the key one is our strict code of ethics, which we have maintained uncompromised for the 45 years of our existence. We have a track record of over 500 projects, all of them completed on time. The third factor is that most clients come back to work with us as they recognize the quality and value in our work.
What are your ambitions for 2019?
We plan to triple our 2018 revenue. We are optimistic as the resurgence of oil prices benefits our industry. We are in talks with private companies in the oil industry that will be investing in new production capacity, and we have a major opportunity in the rehabilitation of the Esmeralda Refinery. We are certainly optimistic about the future. Political change in the country is slow, though recently there has been a change of course. In the case of Acero de los Andes, we have maintained its production capacity, and are ready for new opportunities. Many of the companies that were competitors of SANTOS CMI are having serious problems; some have disappeared while others are completely inactive due to allegations of corruption. This has given us great wexpectations of what we can do when the country's economic situation improves.