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It’s a Steel

SULB is a Structural steel manufacturer in the GCC, boasting a combined plant rolling capacity of 1.1 million tonnes / annum across its facilities in the Kingdom of Bahrain & in Jubail industrial city. Based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we interviewed Regional Sales Manager Afroz Iqbal, following the firm’s success in being included in the prestigious UAE Business Awards 2017.

SULB is a 51:49 joint venture between GCC industrial conglomerate; Foulath & Japanese Steel producer; Yamato Kogyo. SULB Products are supplied to steel stockholders, fabricators & EPC
SULB’s overall mission is: ‘To be the supplier of choice for structural steel in the GCC.’ They aim to achieve this by continually striving to achieve the following vision and goals:

• Manufacturing and supplying structural steel products and services that satisfy the needs of their customers;

• Constantly achieving operational excellence in all their production facilities;

• Conducting their business in a safe, environmentally sustainable and economically optimal manner and;

• Employing a diverse, innovative and resultsoriented team, motivated to deliver excellence.

Afroz begins by sharing his thoughts on the firm being a part of the UAE Business Awards 2017 and what differentiates them from their competitors.

“SULB is honoured and absolutely thrilled to be considered for such a prestigious award. This award is a testimony to the fact that SULB and its products have significantly contributed towards the infrastructural growth of the UAE market today.

“SULB offers a unique advantage to its clients, by offering one of the widest ranges of structural steel products within the GCC region. Moreover, Yamato Kogyo - a 49% shareholder in SULB & a technological partner - brings decades of invaluable technical expertise in the manufacturing process of structural steel, which makes our products stand out in the market in terms of both quality and performance.

“SULB’s internal culture promotes out-of-the-box thinking, to arrive at business solutions which contribute towards the overall wellbeing of the company, as well as our customers. The HR department here consistently reviews the performance of the personnel employed within our divisions. They suggest appropriate training courses for them, with the aim of continually improving their skill set and performance.”

Afroz then provides a brief overview of the steel industry in the Middle East and how the firm stays ahead of any emerging developments.

“The steel industry in the Middle East, is currently going through a challenging phase, because the lower infrastructural spending by the respective governments and the unstable geo-political climate we find ourselves in. So, there has been a huge slowdown in the construction market.

“The biggest slowdown has been observed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with a combination of fewer projects and a shortage of cash for many customers. However, we firmly believe that things have reached the bottom of the cycle, so from here onwards we should begin to see signs of improved economic development.

“SULB is continually looking to improve its products and services that it can offer to the market. We keep a constant eye on the emerging trends, in terms of new products that are required by the market and strive to bridge this gap. SULB’s technical team is working around the clock, to come up with new product grades and profiles, that may help us to substitute imports and stay ahead of the competition.”

In closing, Afroz develops this interesting point regarding the steel industry and outlines developments he foresees and how the firm will adapt around these.

“The fall in the global crude price, from the second half of 2014 has impacted government infrastructure spending in oil-producing Middle East countries. However, the push for governments (including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to diversify economies away from oil, could also drive spending in new and innovative sectors, thus creating demand. All economies and governments have taken actions to reduce their dependency on oil. Projects for the development of other industries will require more warehouses and infrastructure, which will require more structural steel.

“SULB typically supplies over half of its products to the Saudi market, a third to the UAE and other GCC countries and we export less than 10% out of the GCC. The largest sector for the consumption of structural steel is in non-residential construction. Residential projects in the GCC are typically concrete-based projects, which consume steel in the form of reinforcing bar (rebar). SULB also supports engineering, procurement and construction contractors on major oil and gas projects in Saudi Arabia.

“Before the Middle East had its own structural steel producers, the region was missing a consistent level of quality products, because no one was committed in the long-term as a supplier. Concrete has historically been the dominant solution for construction in the region and it still is today. Now companies know they can base their strategy on structural steelbased solutions and that they have an available supplier, who is committed to their success in the long-term.”