Posted on November 21, 2012

The future prospects of  the aluminum industry in the GCC is bright, though it will have its share of challenges to overcome, industry experts have said Wednesday at a ARABAL 2012 panel discussion entitled ‘Future Prospects of Aluminium Industry in the GCC’, with acquisition of local talent and downstream market movements dominating discussion. The moderator of the panel was Mr. Khaled Laram, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Qatalum.

“The most pressing issue facing the industry in the region, is how to develop local talent and to retain them,” Mr. Abdullah S Busfar, Vice-President, Strategic Business Unit Aluminium /Metal at Ma’aden said.

According to Mr. Busfar, developing local manpower is a top priority, and the industry in the region has to work to develop local talent. He said Ma’aden is working very closely with educational institutions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop local skilled workforce.

Echoing the same opinion, Mr. Said al Masoudi, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Sohar Aluminium said, “The biggest challenge facing us is to build local expertise as we are losing good and talented people to the oil and gas industry. We are working to train our staff, and we need to put all our efforts to retain the right kind of people needed for our industry.”

He said another major issue faced by the industry is to stay competitive. “We need to work hard for expansion. Despite the challenges this year, we are on track and we will maintain our supplies to our clients.”

Mr. Tom Petter Johansen (pictured), Chief Executive Officer of Qatalum, taking part in the panel discussion said the company will seek to consolidate its base and would work to bring value added products. “We are developing our base and looking at new markets.”

On the subject of the company entering downstream segment, Mr Johansen said, though the company will not be directly involved in the downstream industry in the country, it is fully committed to offer all kind of assistance in establishing in Qatar.

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“ We will support it [downstream] proactively. We produce high quality products that can be utilized by the downstream industry,” he said.

Mr Johansen further said the market for the downstream is there and the government of Qatar is also encouraging for downstream industry in the country to utilize Qatalum products. The Qatalum CEO also expressed his concern about the stability of aluminum prices. “We need to increase profitability to attract more investment.”

Mr Tim Murray, Chief Executive Officer of Alba was of the opinion that lack of proper energy policy in Bahrain is an issue he would like to see it addressed. “The issue of gas price and a clear energy policy is our top priority.”

He also outlined the need to create a balance between demand and supply.  “At present the there is oversupply in the market and unfortunately we have not invested the way we should have,” Mr Murray said.

In yet another topic on the environment, most of the panelists agreed that the aluminum industry in the region is giving lot of importance on the subject.

“At Qatalum we have the most energy efficient technology and we are continuously striving to be environment friendly. It is a never-ending process and for this we are recycling our waste to be processed in Qatar and used in Qatar,” said Mr. Tom Petter Johansen.

Mr. Said al Masoudi, commenting on this issue said that Sohar is working with the Gulf Aluminium Council in this respect and is taking all measures to protect the environment.

The CEO of Alba, Mr. Murray, in his remarks on the issue said the company is installing new energy efficient technology in its new lines and is also working to upgrade the existing ones. “We are doing everything we can to be energy efficient,” he said.