For Lafarge, surviving in an extremely competitive environment means innovation. This includes rebranding the company in the UAE and adding new products.
Formerly known as Emirates Cement Company, a joint venture with the Dubai Group, a member of Dubai Holding, and the Fujairah Government, it is now running under the name Lafarge Emirates Cement.
The company owns its own quarry and crusher and opened its first factory along Emirates Road in Dubai at the end of 2007 with a capacity of 3Mt. Although it still churns out about the same amount of cement today, one third to 40 per cent is dedicated to exports, said CEO Antoine Duclaux.
"We’re still happy with the volume of sales in the region. But at the time, like all manufacturers, the objective was to sell domestically in Dubai, which we did. But now like most big players we export to Oman and some other captive markets, like Kuwait and Iraq and we are also targeting the Indian Ocean islands, like Mayotte and Mauritius."
In comparison to Iraq’s double-digit growth, Qatar’s consumption has dropped. Saudi Arabia’s demand is high but imports there face transport and pricing restrictions due to the local cement industry being subsidised, Duclaux explained.
"To survive in an extremely competitive market the only way is to innovate via products and services," he said.
Lafarge’s cement, sold in bulk and bags, has been rebranded Classic (Portland cement) and Flexi (Portland with limestone). Shield (sulphate-resistant Portland cement) will be available next week.
"We benefit from the research and development carried out in Europe. Not all players have that," said Duclaux. Lafarge recently announced it developed a cement product that reduces CO2 emissions by 25 per cent.
"The product still needs to be industrialised but there could be certainly an opportunity, along with other new products and services, to introduce it into the market here. We’re all for sustainable construction and have been involved with Masdar," Duclaux added.