Mar. 19, 2021


Javier Diaz Gomez

Saudi Arabia

Javier Diaz Gomez

Country Manager Saudi Arabia, Aqualia

“You can improve deficiencies through some digitalization, but in the end you need operators and people to solve things.”

BIO

Javier Diaz Gomez was born in Spain in 1976. He holds an MSc degree in Civil Engineering and has completed various postgraduate programs. He also has French nationality, and has specialized in water infrastructure for more than 15 years. Since 2014 he has been managing Aqualia's business in KSA, responsible for its expansion in Bahrain and Kuwait and 
previously in Eastern Europe for a five-year period. He has experience in water resources such as desalination plants thanks to his role as PM at Chennai RO Plant and with Abengoa WWTP in Spain. He has also worked on different projects for irrigation and potable water.


What was the reason behind the acquisition of the Qatarat Desalination Company, and how does it represent your strategic priorities in Saudi right now?

Our business model is focused on acquiring assets or operating the concessions that have been offered in the Saudi market since 2018. The only way to grow for us at this time is through M&As. The acquisition of this asset, the desalination plant at Jeddah Airport, is in our growth strategy. It allows us to avoid the time-consuming process of bidding for tenders while still gaining scale. It is a different business model than some competitors, which shows our interest in and commitment to Saudi Arabia and that we are well financed, because this is a foreign investment. We did not only acquire Qatarat, but also the other company that operates it. We are using this platform to grow the business and we are trying to be selective to avoid entering into the tricky market of tenders. This was our first acquisition in the Kingdom, but we have been working on that model for some time.

In the past, did you work with concessions or primarily by contract?

The work we did on Riyadh's water system in the past was all contract work. It was leak detection and other key services. We have participated in six concessions, and we have been the leader in three of them. However, Saudi Arabia is extremely competitive, and we are not taking that many risks. There is a bottom line, and with the level of prices on the table so far, we cannot bid on many contracts and maintain our standard of quality. We are conservative and prefer not to enter the business unless there is a good profit and a solid risk assessment. This was not the case with recent tenders.

What is your assessment of the management of the impacts of the pandemic internally and with your operations?

It has been challenging. We have seen limited cases, with around three or four cases over the whole year. We introduced extremely strict measures, and all our contract services have been working without any stoppage. We have been delivering everything on time. The headquarters issued extremely strict guidelines based on global safety regulations. We also adapted to our local market, and it worked without imposing any additional costs. Many people are saying COVID-19 affected their costs. We took some basic measures to buy masks and all those things, but in the end we want to avoid losing people or duplicating positions. It is a case of organizing yourself much better than before, and we have done this so far.

Has the pandemic affected the demand for water or any other metrics related to your business?

No. Other than the operational aspects things have remained relatively the same. Some areas in industrial production went down, but in Saudi Arabia the real lockdown was roughly one month. Apart from that, it has been managed much better than Europe.

How has your use of technology in the water sector come into play in recent months with your concession and acquisition?

You cannot replace the manpower in the water sector with technology. You can improve deficiencies through some digitalization, but in the end you need operators and people to solve things. You can get more information through computers to make decisions, but normally in the water sector there are no computers making decisions. Based on that, we are trying to apply the latest and most efficient technologies in the market to reduce costs and improve performance for more challenging water areas, sewage, or potable water. Unlike other sectors, there is no fully digital system in the water sector; it does not exist and will not.

ADVERTISEMENT