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‘We should use our resources to gain more power’

Abdulkarim Al Saleh, Group CEO, Fawaz Group, speaks to B Surendar about the region’s market renaissance and challenges – both fiscal and technical.

| | Mar 7, 2014 | 11:53 am
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mar2014-interview03Abdulkarim Al Saleh, Group CEO, Fawaz Group, speaks to B Surendar about the region’s market renaissance and challenges – both fiscal and technical.

Helming the Kuwait-based company dealing in electromechanical engineering, manufacturing, maintenance and trading, with HVAC as one of its areas of interests, and footprints across the region, Abdulkarim Al Saleh has interesting insights to share …

Are you seeing encouraging signs from the market?

The demand for HVAC is definitely increasing. There are lots of projects in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia, in particular. There are several interesting developments in these two countries, in particular.

What are the key challenges?

The KPIs have changed in the past 10-15 years. There are a lot of companies in the market, so professionalism and quality assurance are needed. People are getting more educated in terms of value engineering and facilities management contracts. However, the scene is different from one country to another, even in terms of technical needs. In the UAE, the concentration is more on green and District Cooling. Here, in Kuwait, there is more focus on power consumption and ice storage tanks. In Kuwait, when you have a chiller, maintenance is from a power consumption point of view, and there is a drive towards thermal energy storage.

Do you see any initiatives coming in Kuwait towards a shift away from power subsidies for consumers?

No, there is no such intention. As before, the push is on the manufacturers to reduce the power consumption per tonne of air conditioning. In Kuwait, there is no significant market share for District Cooling.

I am with District Cooling when it comes to towers, but am against it when it comes to a complex of villas or a cluster of hotels, as we see in Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. I recommend VRVs or VRFs for individual villas.

Kuwait is a rich country, so they can provide more power stations. The stations should be added. We should use our resources to gain more power.

While the government is requiring thermal energy storage, the market is developing in terms of packaged units for private citizens. So, there is a good opportunity for VRVs and VRFs to enter the market and get competitive advantage. In the past, when compared to chillers, VRVs and VRFs did not have much of a chance, in terms of value engineering. In today’s Kuwait, there is better education on power consumption, cost efficiency and price.

At Fawaz, what is the stance on the type of refrigerant to be used?

At Fawaz Contracting, we provide what we are asked for. We don’t specify, we get specified. My personal view is that I would like to use an environmentally friendly refrigerant; however, we respond as per market demands.

Kuwait is known for its high incidence of sandstorms. What progress is being made on the IEQ front?

In the case of sandstorms, there is only so much we can do in terms of central air conditioning. Sand comes through the windows and other features, and from different directions. We do recommend fresh air louvres and filtration systems, but this does not control several areas of the projects. MEP is not in control; it is a civil contracting task.

Broadly speaking, do you see any changes in the drivers for HVAC growth?

Ministries have to start to put more money into the market in terms of projects, and this will get private companies to invest. We keep hearing about investments in Kuwait, but [we] still are not in touch with them. In Saudi Arabia and the UAE, we see hundreds of millions of investments going into cities being built. We need to see the investments in Kuwait.

And what about your interests in the UAE?

We have about AED 500 million in projects in the UAE, and with the Expo, we are seeing a lot of demand in the tendering stage. We are very keen on entering the FM sector in the UAE. We are very strong in FM in Kuwait, and we want to drive that strength into the UAE. That’s our plan for this year.


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