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Interview

Visal Leng – General Manager, GE Oil & Gas Asia-Pacific – Malaysia

The GM of GE Oil & Gas Asia-Pacific discusses key growth strategies in the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) region including strategic public-private partnerships and localizing operations in regional hubs such as Malaysia.

What have been some of your key initiatives since becoming general manager of GE Oil & Gas for the Asia Pacific region?

A lot my focus has centered on localizing operations in each ASEAN country, including Malaysia, while also strengthening GE’s overall presence in the region. Establishing strategic partnerships with local companies such as Petronas, SapuraKencana and TNB have allowed GE to maximize opportunities across all segments of the oil and gas industry including local infrastructure support, liquefied natural gas (LNG) compression, and the supply of turbomachinery solutions. Other efforts have focused on supporting the economic welfare of Southeast Asian citizens through the creation of job opportunities; for example, in the last few years we have nearly tripled the number of field service engineers in Malaysia, established factory operations in Singapore, and increased investments in our Indonesian facility. As a result of collaborative efforts across the board, we have managed to see multiple initiatives come to fruition. GE is well positioned for success in this region.

In a 2012 interview with Bloomberg you stated that GE Oil & Gas is looking to double its business in Asia in three to five years, driven by USD 40 billion of investments in Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. Three years later, how close is GE Oil & Gas to achieving this target and what challenges, if any, have you faced?

Across Asia Pacific, a key region for the company’s downstream business, GE has succeeded in doubling its presence, especially in countries like Australia and Vietnam that have experienced an increase in demand for liquefaction capacity. Significant progress has been made from our position just a few years ago. However, with the recent downturn and the corresponding challenges faced in the overall industry today, including an increasingly strict regulatory environment, everyone is constrained for resources. After attending an industry conference we planned back in February, it was apparent to me that collaboration among all players in the petroleum industry, in terms cost efficiency, sustainability, and environmental preservation, will be key in coming out ahead of the down cycle. If our history and track record are any indication, GE is very open to collaborative opportunities, and we look forward to working with our current and prospective partners in the region.

All of GE’s key businesses are present in Malaysia. How do you see GE’s contribution to the nation’s sustainable development and growth?

GE has been in Malaysia for almost 40 years now, with future prospects in the country continuing to grow everyday. The CEO of GE ASEAN, Stuart Dean, is based out of Malaysia, and he is working on all fronts to develop GE’s businesses across aviation, healthcare, power, water, and oil and gas, inevitably contributing to the country’s socioeconomic growth and sustainability. GE has developed and maintained fruitful relationships with government entities and local companies such as Petronas, which have not only contributed to our success within Malaysia, but the entire region. As the headquarters for GE’s turbomachinery solutions and downstream technology solutions businesses, Malaysia, a country characterized by its regional connectivity, quality of talent, and robust infrastructure, has proven to be of great importance for us in Asia.

What is the extent of GE’s turbomachinery business in Malaysia, and the region as a whole? Also, how have you cultivated your relationship with Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas?

GE’s turbomachinery business in Southeast Asia has been a long history of partnerships and success. It dates back almost 20 years to the Malaysian LNG facility in Bintulu, Sarawak, where GE installed some of the first power generation and compression units. We also had a strong LNG installed base in Batam, Indonesia, when the country was really at the peak of LNG exports. So we’ve had a historical presence here, and we want to continue that trend, especially with the abundance of gas resources in the region.

GE’s relationship with Petronas has increased in intensity: it started off as a technology partnership back in the years when GE collaborated with the national oil company to introduce LNG compression technology. All of the products and services at the time originated from our HQ in Italy; however, we started to localize our operations more and more as our presence in the country and region grew. In fact, as a testament to the strength of our relationship, we renewed our global framework agreement with Petronas.

We are very proud of the association that we have with Petronas, which revolves around technology and services, but more importantly, around leadership. Over the years we’ve shared and collaborated on industry best practices with Petronas management at our Crotonville management center, which has been very beneficial in strengthening leadership on both benches. So, from all fronts, we are pleased to say that our partnership with Petronas is working quite well.

What is the vision for GE’s joint venture with SapuraKencana (SK)?

We started to partner with Sapura before the merger with Kencana. What we saw at the time was a very strong, local company with good governance, knowledge, and reach within Malaysia. So, it was a good partnership between GE’s technology and SK’s local services. GE and SK’s joint venture company revolves around after-sale services of rotating oil and gas equipment, including repair and maintenance services for all Petronas facilities with GE machinery. SK has evolved into a very large Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation, and Commissioning (EPCIC) company with different activities spanning from offshore drilling services to pipe laying. Moving forward, we are looking at different opportunities for further collaboration, and then we will expand as the two companies see fit for mutual benefit.

We know that GE employs over 1,000 Malaysians, both in the region and throughout the world. Is recruiting and retaining talent a challenge for GE Oil & Gas in the region?

GE’s localization strategy centers on the creation of job opportunities and careers. We look at it as a kind of local sustainability. With the sheer magnitude of quality talent in the region, we may face challenges in retention when the market is hot. But, we try to position ourselves as an employer of choice and as a company that values meritocracy, so it doesn’t really matter where you come from, what your background is, as long as you want to contribute and perform, there will be a place for you at GE, especially in a global context. For employees that desire international exposure outside their home country, opportunities will always be available. We are happy with our operations in Malaysia, as well as in the greater Southeast Asian region, and we will continue to expand.

Looking into the future, what is the vision for the next three to five years for GE Oil & Gas in Malaysia, as well as in the region, with you at the helm?

Currently, GE Oil & Gas is very well known, especially in this region, for areas such as LNG, turbomachinery, and compression. However, GE has been embarking on a series of acquisitions in the past six years to strengthen the portfolio of its products and services, including Oceaneering’s subsea electric actuator product line, Cameron’s rotating compression division, and Wellstream, a pipeline systems manufacturer. In my opinion, we can offer the oil and gas industry a lot more than what is currently known today, so in terms of the future, the focus will be on promoting the entire breadth of GE’s products and services.

Additionally, we are also looking into the future in terms of what I would call the “industrial internet.” We believe we can optimize the productivity of machine assets by acquiring comprehensive data on how the machine behaves—the rotations, the temperature, and through the use of predictive analytics, we can then project when the machine will shut down or malfunction, and with foresight, conduct preventative maintenance to save our customers time and money. This is a pervasive initiative across GE, both on a global and company-wide scale, which has lead us to open the iCenter in Malaysia, one of three centers around the world that will specialize in 24/7 remote monitoring and diagnostic services for all rotating equipment that GE Oil & Gas provides.

For you personally, what is the legacy you would like to leave behind?

Having been a part of GE for 19 years now, I’ve had experience in multiple regions across several sectors. In an industry like oil and gas, I feel the roots of sustainability will be solely based on two factors—localization and customer-centric service. As a result of my contributions, I will have hopefully created a strong, healthy, and sustainable business managed by locally sourced talent in the years to come.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from Malaysia, and to download the latest free oil and gas report on the country. 

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