A MASTER OF METHOD

Kuwait 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ghassan Ahmad Al-Khaled, CEO of ACICO, on performance over the last year, new products and offerings, and entering new markets.

Ghassan Ahmad Al-Khaled
BIOGRAPHY
Ghassan Ahmad Al-Khaled began his career in the construction industry in 1973, and is currently the CEO and main stakeholder of ACICO. In this capacity, he set out ACICO’s vision to become a leading name in industry, construction, cement, real estate, hotels, and yachts. In addition to being CEO of ACICO, Al-Khaled is a board member of the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK).

How do you assess the company's performance last year?

Despite the turmoil in the region, the company's total revenue in 2016 rose to KWD98.6 million (USD326 million) from KWD97.5 million in 2015. The company's activities witnessed growth because of the continuous increase in urbanization, including the construction of buildings, infrastructure, and private housing. In 2016, ACICO invested in its own activities, which resulted in consolidated total assets increasing by 8% compared to the end of the previous year. Our assets are diversified on the basis of geographical and sectorial variation as well as their ability to generate revenue and sustainable income.

One of ACICO's sister companies launched the Integrated Smart Parking Solutions project last year in efforts to facilitate urbanization through efficient construction. How is this project progressing?

Kuwait faces many challenges in regard to parking, especially in the city. ACICO launched Smart Parking Solutions to help resolve the stressful situation related to parking in Kuwait. It is the first project to be implemented by ACICO Construction Company. ACICO Construction obtained exclusive rights for smart parking systems in Kuwait and GCC countries in cooperation with one of the largest Italian companies specializing in this field. Through this collaboration, we can use smart parking solutions to accommodate 420 cars in only 900-sqm of space, for example. Our smart parking solutions can be customized to meet clients' needs, from parking two cars to over 1,000 cars.

What other innovative products and offerings are you introducing to the sector?

One area in which we are focusing is not so much a particular product, but rather a method. The method of construction utilizing autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) has proven to be the most suitable for the environmental conditions of the region; notably, its thermal insulative properties and faster curing period make it a preferred building material for these climes. Thanks to its higher insulation quality, it is more environmentally friendly, and also increases energy efficiency of buildings by decreasing costs of air-conditioning and cooling. AAC has been used successfully in various types of buildings such as schools, villas, hotels, and residential buildings, among others. AAC has not only been used in Kuwait but also in Qatar, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The significant growth in demand for cellular concrete suggests that its future is promising. Our position as one of the largest manufacturers of AAC in the Middle East has enhanced our international presence, and we ensure our products comply with the international ASTM standards and German DIN standards. Moreover, all of ACICO's products, such as AAC, cement, and ready-mix, are approved by the appropriate ministries and government agencies.

Given your strong presence globally, what is the approved plan to expand in other markets?

Over the years, ACICO Group has focused on the industrial sector; however, it has subsequently shifted its focus to support its financial position and market share through investments in sectors such as construction, real estate, and hotels. This diversification helped us to benefit from additional market opportunities and to distribute the risks across sectors while simultaneously supporting the company's growth and revenue. We are currently looking to expand in our current markets, both locally and regionally, as well as enter new markets to capture new investment opportunities. This will be done after studying each opportunity and ensuring its investment feasibility.

With expansion plans in place, what are your expectations for next year?

We expect a better performance for the company in the coming period due to the government's continued implementation of residential projects in Kuwait. ACICO aims to benefit from the opportunities and projects from Kuwait's Vision 2035, which is the strategic plan for infrastructure, oil sector projects, and more. We also expect the expansion of the company's activities in the fields of cement, light bricks, and other industries. Geographically speaking, there are also future expansion plans in Dubai, Sauid Arabia, and Qatar. After the company develops its assets and establishes a solid base of operational and human assets, it will enable ACICO to achieve sustainable returns.