The Business Year

Bashir Bassatne

Chairman, HYPCO

Salah Khayat

CEO, Petroleb

Though challenges still persist in the domestic market, saturation among others, Lebanese firms are more than making up for this through aggressive action in the region.

What are some of the challenges of working in Lebanon?

BASHIR BASSATNE There are many more stations than are needed. That is why we focus on location and the effectiveness of each station. We do not take stations without carefully studying them and seeing the development prospect of those stations. We look at current figures and what the prospective figures will be after some rehabilitation and reinvestment. We always take a long-term view of these stations. It is not important for us to increase the number of stations. What is important is to develop the sales at the existing and new stations. We promote our stations by always being innovative. We are always getting new ideas and are offering new services to our clients, consistently providing the best service. That is also true in terms of quality of products that we offer. We are the distributors for Shell lubricants, for example, which is the world’s leading lubricant brand and the top-selling lubricant in the world the last five years in a row.

SALAH KHAYAT There are certainly many challenges, though these are not challenges specific to Petroleb. They are challenges for all companies and challenges within the business environment. The Lebanese Petroleum Administration and the Ministry of Energy and Water have done a great deal of professional work that has attracted companies, and the credit goes to them for all their efforts in the last few years. Outside of their scope of work, we are still in an environment that could be better managed in order to have a stronger presence of international companies. A great deal needs to be changed in order to reach the standard of countries in the region. There is so much competition regionally and globally that the country has to do its homework to attract companies the way others do. We work internationally; unfortunately, at times as a Lebanese it is easier to work in an international area than in Lebanon. This should not be the case. It would be best if many international norms could be adopted in Lebanon as well.

What are your expectations for the coming years?

BB The sector will evolve. There should be more integration between companies so that things will be more stable. We are also hoping for more, closer partnerships with the ministry, so that issues such as regulation can be addressed. We are hoping for a win-win situation between three parties—the private sector; the government, the ministry in particular; and our consumers, our main target. We feel a real difference with the new government. This administration, headed by our president and prime minister, will give a fresh start to the whole country. The Council of Ministers is young, dynamic, and well educated. We are very hopeful. We believe in our country and will never stop reinvesting in it, to stay and be among the leading oil companies in Lebanon. In 2015, we acquired the majority stake in Cogico, which owns of the biggest and most efficient terminals in Lebanon. After the acquisition, our network of service stations has now reached 138. HYPCO is also present in Turkey. In 2016, we acquired a company there and now have 58 HYPCO stations in Turkey.

SK Most of the discoveries are to be gas, and gas is highly needed in the region, especially for the power sector and the industrial sector in Lebanon. Gas is also needed by the regional and international market, especially the EU, which is extremely keen to see another source of gas supply. This gives the region its real importance. In addition to the recent discoveries in the proximity of Lebanon, there are offshore fields in Egypt and Palestine as well as discoveries in Cyprus. All these discoveries around Lebanon have whetted the appetite of companies and given them encouragement that there is a petroleum system in place. Thirdly, which is the most important factor, LPA has performed complete 3D and 2D seismic studies for the offshore area of Lebanon. Certain companies have purchased the data, and it is encouraging. There are many structures that seem to hold a great deal of gas. If we put together the market needs and proximity to Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean, and add to that the data and the discoveries around us, then the appetite amongst companies to come here is understandable.



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