Ahmed Hammoud Ibrahim Al Theyab
It has been a challenging 12 months for our industry, primarily as a result of economic headwinds and competitive pressures. However, despite the tough operating environment and external factors beyond our control, we managed to meet our financial and operational targets for the year.
Importantly, our strategic initiatives are bearing fruit; helping to strengthen the Group, and position the company for continued growth, both in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and internationally.
Our self-funded investment programme is key to ensuring we can capture growing demand, as well as seize opportunities presented by new technologies. Over the year this has manifested itself in the installation of a new PET preform production line, an expanded product offering and the commencement of construction of a fully-automated central warehouse.
We have, of course, also continued to invest in our people, who remain pivotal to the company’s success. As well as the ongoing professional development of employees, we are continuously assessing health & safety conditions to make sure we are aligned with best practice. Moreover, in the pursuit of responsible corporate citizenship, we are mindful of our environmental footprint.
Despite a tougher operating environment, our high-calibre executive management team, deep employee talent pool and robust governance structures give me great confidence that the company will continue to flourish, irrespective of any swings in the business cycle.
The difficult trading conditions in 2018 have inevitably affected our financial performance, but it has not dimmed our confidence, as we continue to ramp up capacity and build further momentum across the MENA region. Indeed, given the fierce competition, it has been very gratifying to see our customer base, and sales volume grow.
Across the business, we are working tirelessly to ensure that we become the regional partner of choice. To this end, we have expanded our product portfolio with a broader range of weights and sizes, which means that we now can cater to all customer needs.
The lion’s share of our business is still done in KSA, but international sales have been growing rapidly as we actively diversify our revenue streams. Our turnover abroad has increased more than six-fold since 2016, and now constitutes 18.2% of overall sales. We are particularly excited about Africa, where we see huge potential in several countries.
It is an inherent feature of our business that we have minimal control over price, which makes cost discipline all the more important. Protecting margins is vital, and we believe we can cushion future raw-material volatility through a leaner cost structure, and by continuously improving our operational efficiency. As for capital stewardship, we have continued to manage the balance sheet conservatively, financing fixed investments from our cash reserves rather than debt.
Looking ahead, we are focused on growing organically, by expanding our operating and storage assets – having competitively priced quality products, success hinges on the relationships we forge with our customers. This means being attentive to their evolving needs and adapting our business accordingly.