Antoine Samaha, Dow’s Regional Commercial Director shares with EOG the company’s achievements, challenges and future plans
Please provide a brief background of The Dow Chemical company and its petrochemical operations
Dow combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world’s most pressing issues, such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, AgroSciences and plastics businesses deliver a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high-growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture.
Our people around the world develop solutions for society based on Dow’s inherent strength in science and technology. For over two decades we have embraced and advocated Responsible Care® — a voluntary industry-wide commitment to safely handle our chemicals from inception in the laboratory to ultimate disposal. This worldwide commitment helps consumers lead better lives, customers succeed, stockholders prosper, employees achieve and communities thrive.
Our Oil & Gas operations globally have a clear focus on maximizing value for our customers by constantly innovating to meet market needs. Through rigorous market knowledge, chemistry expertise and advanced innovation, the Dow Oil & Gas operations has garnered the capabilities to help improve the efficiency, speed, capacity, and environmental sustainability of downstream processes and the performance of products. Dow’s problem-solving process also brings a unique merger of chemistry and engineering experience for a more comprehensive understanding and solution to market challenges.
It is through our knowledge in areas of exploration, production, refining and processing, coupled with more than 100 years of chemistry expertise, that Dow extends its impact on the oil and gas sector across developed and emerging markets.
What countries/regions does Dow Chemical operate in?
Dow has offices operating in Europe, Middle East & Africa, Asia Pacific, North and Latin America, where we supply a broad range of products and services to customers in approximately 160 countries. The Company has more than 5,000 products that are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe.
In Africa, Dow has been present for more than 50 years and enjoys a growing commercial and manufacturing presence across the region. We have seven commercial offices located across Kenya, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Ghana, along with four manufacturing facilities and two technical service centers serving the continent. We serve 700 customers across 38 countries on the continent and have more than 300 employees. Our manufacturing facilities supply products to various industries, including: AgroSciences, coatings, textiles, furniture and personal care, and provide solutions for local water challenges .
What services and products does Dow Chemical provide in the petrochemical industry?
Dow Oil & Gas was formed to better meet the needs of the oil and gas industry in its quest for more efficient and environmentally friendly performance in all of its operations, from exploration and production through to finished products. Overall, Dow prides itself on having a customer-centric business model that aligns our businesses and innovations to deliver market-specific solutions based on customer and market needs. With that in mind Dow has developed deep market knowledge backed by over 100 years of chemistry expertise with a Research and Development (R&D) powerhouse to deliver advanced innovation solutions.
In particular Dow Oil & Gas provides the oil and gas industry with a range of products for drilling, stimulation, production, refining and gas treating. Specifically, our service offering is focused on the gas treating segment. Dow Oil & Gas delivers total solutions that treat gas more efficiently and economically.
We continuously endeavor to keep innovating to provide a robust portfolio of performance products. Dow’s innovation is powered by an industry-leading R&D organization which remains focused on anticipating market trends and delivering game-changing solutions to address the challenges affecting a wide range of areas from exploration, production to refining & processing. In refining & gas processing, Dow showcased its innovative solutions by providing leading amine analytical services & consultancy services to help optimize the amine units to help reduce operating expenditure.
Was it easy for Dow Chemical to break through the Egyptian petrochemicals industry?
Dow started its operations in Egypt in 1970 with a sales office in Cairo. The company has been supporting Egypt’s development for more than 40 years by providing solutions and advanced innovations to meet market needs across multiple industries from infrastructure, oil and gas to household goods. To meet market needs in Egypt, Dow invested in the country’s first Polyurethane System House, and in 2009 it established its petrochemical business fully.
Despite the fact that the Egyptian market is highly competitive, Dow’s business is doing well and continues to grow with market needs.
What are the company’s remarkable achievements in the Egyptian market so far? What do you expect for the Egyptian Petrochemicals market in the near future?
Our business in Egypt has established strong relations with many clients – specifically in the exploration & production and downstream segment. Having been in Egypt for over 40 years, developing strong market understanding coupled with custom chemistries, technologies and R&D capabilities, Dow is well placed as a partner of choice. We have thus been able to leap ahead of market demands to provide advanced innovations within Egypt.
What would you consider to be the primary factors behind the success of the company in Africa?
Africa possesses an abundance of human as well as natural resources. As the continent continues to capitalize on opportunities for growth and witnesses increased urbanization, there will be further demands on infrastructure, transportation, food and water safety, and healthcare services in both rural and urban areas.
With this in mind, Dow’s business has been focused on key economic trends we refer to as ‘Megatrends’, namely: Infrastructure and Transportation, Energy, Consumerism, and Health & Nutrition which mirror areas of growth and development within Africa. Our ability to address key challenges on the continent and draw on our global expertise uniquely places Dow as a true partner in Africa.
Ultimately it’s Dow’s global reach and expertise, coupled with local knowledge and deep understanding of regional characteristics that uniquely places us in a strong position to address Africa’s most important challenges.
What are the company’s plans/projects in the coming period?
We are focusing on growing our market share not only in Egypt, but on the entire African continent through the deployment of technical sales teams across Africa with a clear focus on North and West Africa.
Dow’s vast and well-balanced portfolio is strategically positioned to take on the complex realities of Africa, today and tomorrow. We have aligned our businesses with geographies and end-markets where our global megatrends are driving global growth.
We have a very selective and focused regional strategy that helps us in implementing our plans. This strategy focuses on leveraging our strengths by engaging in strategic partnerships, diversification and broadened reach, as well as expanding our geographic footprint by increasing our country presence and opening new offices worldwide. Dow is keen to remove barriers that nullify growth by improving our market knowledge and strengthening the supply chain and our product sourcing capability to build local capability.
Across our portfolio, integration, diversification and leading technology are our pillars in providing a competitive advantage. We will apply Dow’s global strategy in Egypt and North East Africa in collaboration with the region’s growth plans, and ensure we can respond to customer needs.
How do you find the competition in the local market and what are your plans to achieve your goals?
We believe that there is strong competition from European and Asian suppliers; however, competition ensures that the market continues to innovate and grow. We’ll continue to push forward in maximizing value for our clients by emphasizing our strong supply chain infrastructure to help meet the growing demands of customers.
In addition, our local presence continues to grow stronger to help achieve our goals. As mentioned we have been in Egypt for over 40 years supporting the country across industries through Dow’s diverse portfolio by providing solutions and innovations. Our employees represent the best-in-class of local talent from chemistry and chemical engineering to commercial professionals.
What are the challenges facing Dow Chemical in Egypt? Have the company’s operations been affected by the political and economic situations?
Over the last year Egypt has faced transformations across a number of sectors. Developments are proceeding on different timelines and scales in Egypt with increasing improvements in transport infrastructure, telecommunications, and education. Egypt is in a prime position in history to take advantage of these transformations as well as carve out opportunities to leverage its rich natural resources and youthful, growing population to shift its socio-economic landscape.
Nevertheless, Egypt faces surmounting challenges within foundational sectors such as agriculture, water, and infrastructure. The country continues to face challenges including tumultuous market conditions and a volatile operating environment. However, Dow continues to firmly manage operations – driving and accelerating a full array of efficiency and cost reduction measures, and delivering cash flow improvements.
We are focused on execution and concentrating on the things we can control, and taking further steps to fortify our foundation in this uncertain environment. Additionally, we are working on leveraging our integrated portfolio and global reach and we continue to deleverage our balance sheet.