Sep. 11, 2015


Antoine Azour

Lebanon

Antoine Azour

CEO, Batco Group

TBY talks to Antoine Azour, CEO of Batco Group, on Lebabon's infrastructure, international projects, and expansion strategies.

BIO

Antoine Azour is a businessman and entrepreneur. He is currently Chairman and CEO of BATCO Group. He has built his career as an Engineer and Contractor at the edge of competition in Lebanon, Gulf Region, Europe, and Africa, and has managed to put the companies under his leadership among the first, ranked regionally and internationally. The group currently has operations in nine different countries worldwide and employs over 5,000 employees.

What are the main areas of Batco Group's expertise?

Batco Group is a family of companies offering a wide range of engineering, construction, and solid waste management and related technical services for the public and private sectors. We started off as public works company and contractors, and we then developed into service providers. In the early 1990s we broadened our vision towards the future and ventured into the environmental services through Lavajet, an Italian company specializing in solid waste management. Besides waste management we are also involved in water treatment through the acquisition of majority shares in EMIT, an Italian company operating worldwide within the water, wastewater, solid waste, and energy production from renewable sources.

Since its inception Batco Group has developed many impressive projects throughout several countries. What are the largest goals and aspirations that govern your activities?

We are committed to working for the public good, and that is our ultimate mission: urban excellence, urban betterment, and urban development. The core of our business is comprised of infrastructure works—dams, tunnels, water, sewage treatment, etc. We work not only in Lebanon but also have operations and projects in Turkey, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Italy, Nigeria, Oman, and elsewhere.

What is Batco Group's further expansion strategy?

Batco's next challenge is Saudi Arabia. We have started tendering in Saudi Arabia, and there is a lot of work that we can do there. It's a big, stable market, and even though we have not yet tapped into it, we are committed to getting in there. Other than that, we're also expanding in Africa. We're putting in new proposals in Liberia and expanding in Mozambique. In terms of which have been our biggest and most successful markets, the UAE has always been a big market for us. They have very large, constant, and ambitious infrastructure programs that we have been a major part of.

What role do technology and innovation play at Batco Group?

We can't sustain our business without constant innovation and the use and application of the newest technologies. It's a tough market. You could have the best cost control, the best prices, but you can't stay in the market without technology and remain profitable. You have to invest in the best there is. You also have to invest in the best people to provide the best services. So technology, research, and innovation is key.

What is your assessment of the development of the infrastructure sector in Lebanon?

We're very far behind, due mainly to issues of political stability. It's been lacking infrastructure for a long time in all areas—roads, sewage, water treatment, everything. There is no real commitment for development here. The bureaucratic process is too long and difficult.

How has Batco Group contributed to the development of the Lebanese infrastructure?

Over the years, Batco has built a reputation of excellence and uncompromising commitment to developing a proper environment for successful and sustainable projects. We've participated in most of the infrastructure projects in Lebanon. We've invested a lot of time and money into Lebanon, and some projects haven't even been paid for two or three years. We've done mostly water-related projects. We also have extensive waste treatment work, like the Zahle landfill.

What is Batco Group's medium-term development strategy as well as main objectives for 2015?

The government is launching two major waste treatment concessions, which our company Lavajet will be tendering for. These are big projects. We'll take the risk, invest, and give a good proposal. Another project that interests us is for building wind farms and producing electricity from wind. Besides these projects, our dam construction projects will continue, and the Mseilha Dam is due to be launched in 2015. Hopefully the government will be able to execute and undertake these projects, and hopefully we'll be involved in them all. Now, after having acquired EMIT, we have this whole sector ahead of us in industrial water and sewage treatment projects. EMIT operates in Romania, Turkey, Croatia, Egypt, among other countries, so we also want to do projects in Lebanon.