Geos – Dato’ Mohamad Helmi Zulkawi, Managing Director – Malaysia
The managing director of Asian Geos shares the company’s aggressive and successful internationalization program as a Malaysian pioneer, especially the company’s growing presence in the Middle East and several recent landmarks such as the company’s 10th anniversary and the launch of two new specialized vessels.
Asian Geos is celebrating its 10th year anniversary in 2014. Looking back, what have been the company’s main milestones?
When I started Asian Geos late 2003, offshore geotechnical investigation was our key business. In those ten year timespan we have grown to a significant market share in geotechnical business not only in Malaysia but also abroad.
In 2011, we teamed up with Gardline Geosciences Limited (United Kingdom), in a move to compete on a global basis and provide an increased level of service depth within the local and regional markets particularly in deep water. As a result the hydrographic and geophysical survey services were then introduced to our services portfolio.
One of the recent milestones has been a three-year geophysical site survey contract with Petronas Carigali valued in excess of RM75 million, with a one-year optional contract extension. We rigged up two complete spreads of 2D high resolution site survey vessels and one of the vessels will be permanently assigned to carry out site surveys for Petronas Carigali.
Another milestone has been the official launch of our latest vessels, the DP Geoaltus and the AG Geodrill, officiated by Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad (Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister). With the DP Geoaltus we will now have the capability to undertake deepwater soil boring works. The vessel was converted into a dedicated geotechnical drilling vessel in 2012. The Geodrill is also a specialized vessel, which can be used in very shallow waters. Asian Geos now operates three dedicated soil boring vessels all of which are being used on offshore geotechnical investigation projects throughout South East Asia. Once DP Geoaltus leaves the region, she will be immediately replaced with another non-DP vessel for shallow water works but with deep pilot-hole drilling capability.
The company has grown from a team of a few employees to nearly 300 employees today. We are still growing the company and stepping up efforts for geographical expansion via redeployment of assets and opening of new regional offices.
And you are also providing environmental surveys..
Yes, in collaboration with our global partners Gardline, we have been successfully completing environmental, metocean and hydrographic surveys worldwide for over 10 years. This has allowed the development of a high level of scientific and technical experience in the full range of marine environments.
There is a trend that people become more concerned about the environment. As a result we see more policies developed by clients and governments, which force oil and gas operators to increase their environmental standards.
Also, in 2012 we opened a soils testing laboratory in Kuala Lumpur, which is unique in Malaysia. The testing facilities supports conventional geotechnical tests on soil samples which were brought from our offshore vessels.
How has your market share evolved the past two years?
In 2012 in Malaysia we had a minimum 70 per cent of the market in geotechnical business and regionally we had more than 50 per cent of the market. However over the past two years we have seen a shift. While our domestic market share has gone down to around 40 per cent, our regional market share has increased significantly. This trend is due to an increasingly competitive environment in Malaysia with profit margins decreasing. Asian Geos sticks to their rates and has therefore increased its focus internationally.
For example we have a 60 per cent market share in Indonesia. Also, we are currently bidding for three major contracts in three different countries in the Middle East. We aim to become the third large player in the Middle East.
What is your strategy for entering tenders?
In terms of entering a tender process, our strategy in Malaysia is different compared to international tenders. In Malaysia, preferences would be given to companies who have invested in Malaysian registered geotechnical and survey vessels and employ mostly Malaysian engineers and surveyors. But at the same time they are required to adopt a lowest price strategy in order to win long term contracts. Nevertheless, Asian Geos has been winning several contracts recently. We recently concluded a four year contract for geotechnical and geophysical survey services with Vestigo, a Petronas Carigali subsidiary, focusing on development and production activities from small and marginal and mature fields in Malaysia.
In Malaysia we also have contracts with Murphy Oil for shallow and deepwater geotechnical services. And, we have managed to conclude several contracts in Malaysia with other E&P operators such as Hess and SK Energy.
Could you elaborate on your internationalization strategy?
Over the last decade, we have established an excellent track record as a leading provider of offshore geotechnical and geophysical site survey services in South East Asia. We have recently set up a company called Asian Geos Survey Middle East L.L.C. in Abu Dhabi to commence our business venture into the Arab Gulf market. Three countries in particular we are looking to expand; U.A.E., Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We are now actively participating in various tenders for offshore geotechnical projects with established regional oil and gas clients in aforementioned countries.
Furthermore we have concluded a partnership with Gardline; the largest independent survey company in the world. This partnership enables us to realize our long-term plans of further enhancing our service offering around the world. Historically Gardline has been very strong in Europe. And, as Asian Geos on itself was expanding rapidly internationally entering the Caspian and North Sea starting to compete with Gardline for contracts, we decided to join forces in 2012.
As a result Asian Geos targets Asia Pacific, excluding Australia and Russia, and the Middle East and East Africa. Other geographic areas are covered by Gardline.
What are your expectations in revenues?
Asian Geos is betting heavily on the Middle East. We are hopeful that we will be successful in this region and target revenues between 30 and 40 USD million dollar in two years. In Malaysia and the SEA region we expect to add similar revenues; adding up we aim to reach total annual revenues of USD 75 million by 2017.
To which extent is your global expansion a symbol of “a new Malaysia” in the oil and gas sector?
In terms of the services sector, Asian Geos is proud to say that it has been the first Malaysian company entering the Caspian Sea already in 2004. Moreover our people have been working abroad in countries including Mexico, Venezuela, and China since 2004. And in 2007, we first entered the European market.
Most of our employees are Malaysians and yet our people have been involved in offshore geotechnical and survey projects not only at home and SEA but also in Europe, South America and Australia.
We have been working on an international level for ten consecutive years and continue growing, entering markets. In the service sector Asian Geos is one of Malaysian companies that have been successful and we hope that more will follow.
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