Lebanon 2013 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Maroun N. Chammas, Vice-Chairman & General Manager of Medco, on the wholesale and retail dimensions of the energy fuel market.

Maroun N. Chammas
Maroun N. Chammas is a career entrepreneur, with activities ranging from oil and gas to telecoms. He graduated in Engineering and later obtained an MBA from Boston University. After his studies, he joined his family-owned business, Chammas Group, as Operations Manager. He is currently Vice-Chairman and General Manager of Medco.

What have been the highlights for Medco in its over 100 years of history?

Medco is 103 years old, and we are part of the third generation of the company. It is a family-owned business, but it acts and behaves like a corporation; it has corporate governance and strict rules of engagement. Medco is part of the group of seven companies that exist in the importation, storage, and downstream petroleum sector. We import, store, and deliver products to the end consumer, using our own fleet of trucks and through a network of service stations, of which we have 183 throughout Lebanon. We have a full line of products and we are the only company in Lebanon that offers LPG, gasoline, gas oil, fuel oil, and lubricants. We are a fully integrated company and we do our own imports, we store the product in our own tanks, and we deliver with our own trucks just to ensure that the quality and integrity of the product is respected all the way along the chain to the consumer.

Where do you mainly import from?

We import from ENI in Italy. This is mostly gasoline and gas oil, and other products we import from different sources. We also have a very strong footprint not only in service stations, but in convenience stores. Many of our stations have convenience stores, and we started that back in 1995. We provide service 24/7, 365 days a year. We believe that the service station is a point of sale, not just to sell gas, but to provide a service to customers.

What have been your main initiatives in 2013?

Most recently we introduced Propel, a fuel additive that is immediately mixed with gasoline and provides many advantages. Firstly, it helps take away the deposits that are formed by compression in the engine. By taking the deposits off the engine, it allows for better engine performance and less fuel consumption because when the engine is working at its full capacity, it provides better combustion and better combustion provides more energy for less consumption. The market reaction was very good, the advertising was clear, it was simple to understand, and consumers that have tried it are coming back, so that is good news. Furthermore, it is provided immediately with the gas, without any additional cost to the consumer, and it is part of our effort to provide a better quality product for the same price. Also, in the past year we acquired a small chain of convenience stores that we added to our network, and so we are in the process of expanding that particular business, which we believe is profitable.

What is your outlook on the Lebanese energy sector, and what do you think Lebanon must do to tap into this potential?

The numbers are quite significant, but we would only know once the exploration process starts. I believe it is a game changer for Lebanon. It could mean a lot to the economy, including a reduction in the country's public debt. It would mean better services as well, investment in infrastructure, better living conditions for the people, and, at the end of the day, new jobs being created by the different business that would be created around exploration, such as logistics, transportation, and hotel accommodation—it is a game changer. It is important that this process, which has already started, is not stopped or delayed and that transparency and governance over the wealth is managed properly. This is one of the major concerns of all the Lebanese people. So far, it looks as if things are on track; there may be some delays because of the political situation, but I think that at least the overall political climate on this particular subject is one of agreement.