Suppliers from throughout Western Hemisphere gather for ASC conference
HOUSTON – Several hundred manufacturers and service providers in the Western Hemisphere attended the 2013 Supplier Conference: Saudi Aramco’s Gateway to New Frontiers on May 3 – eager to learn about new opportunities for doing business with Saudi Aramco.
Sponsored by the Procurement & Logistics Department at Aramco Services Company (ASC), the conference drew speakers from around the world to discuss the need for investors to support Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning energy industry.
“You could not ask for a better partner than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Saudi Aramco,” said James B. Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Highlighting the success of Sadara – a multi-billion dollar investment between Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical Company – Smith said, “I urge you to connect with them.”
Ambassador Smith was accompanied by Amer Kayani, minister counselor for Commercial Affairs at the U.S. Embassy. Speakers also included Abdullah Al-Warthan, manager of Projects & Strategic Purchasing at Saudi Aramco; Abdullah Al-Ahmari, manager of the Procurement & Logistics Department at ASC; and representatives from Wood Group Mustang and Dresser-Rand, both of whom have profitable businesses in the Kingdom.
“The conference portrayed Saudi Aramco’s image in the best way,” Al-Warthan said. “By a show of hands, more than 90 percent of the attendees expressed an interest in learning more about local investment opportunities. I hope to see many U.S. investors establish their businesses and manufacturing facilities in Saudi Arabia.”
With trade between the two countries increasing in “double digits,” Ambassador Smith said opportunities for localization are at a premium as the world’s largest energy company is quickly expanding into a chemicals enterprise.
As each presenter clicked through descriptive PowerPoint presentations, they allowed the numbers to speak for themselves. Saudi Aramco’s mega projects have increased construction and engineering hours by 700 percent and 500 percent, respectively, since 2002, Al-Ahmari said.
For the next five years, Saudi Aramco’s capital and operational spending will be the highest in the company’s history, Al-Warthan said. Currently, Saudi Aramco does business with 40 percent of the 10,000 U.S. suppliers who are registered with the company. However, more than half of pipes, vessels, drilling fluids, compressors, pumps and other types of equipment – all which support the company’s upstream and downstream ventures and the country’s domestic needs – are imported. Al-Warthan said that fact needs to change, stressing that nearly 80 percent of materials must be locally sourced by 2017.
In addition to Saudi Arabia having the largest economy in the Middle East and North African region, the country offers other incentives for setting up shop in the Kingdom including exclusive bidding, lower taxes, and rewards for long-term investors. “This is exactly the right time to come and invest in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Warthan said.
Furthermore, the approximately 70,000 Saudi students currently studying in the United States will be ideal employees for new businesses in their homeland that specialize in oil and gas offshore technology, metal processing, automotive technology, plastics and packaging, home appliances and solar energy, he added.
“We were extremely impressed with the students we hired,” said Sammy Antoun, vice president and general manager of Middle East and North Africa Operations for Dresser-Rand.
During a panel discussion, some attendees questioned why they should invest in Saudi Arabia rather than in neighboring countries. Kayani explained that investing companies can have wholly-owned business ventures, and that Saudi Arabia is one of the top 10 export markets of the United States.
“If you’re serious about doing business with the Kingdom, you need to be in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The 80-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia has and will continue to pave the way for smooth business relations between the two counties, Ambassador Smith said.
In addition to learning about Saudi Aramco’s growth and business diversification plans, attendees also participated in breakout sessions to learn about critical materials sourcing; the approval process related to manufacturing facilities, technical and quality evaluations, and service providers; and the benefits of hosting a Saudi Aramco employee as an intern.
“The conference was a huge success,” Al-Ahmari said. “We received a multitude of positive feedback, and many businesses are interested in opportunities created by our company’s tremendous growth.”
ASC’s last supplier conference was held in 2008.