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Interview

with Nesamalar Albeper, Country Manager, AECOM Malaysia

01.03.2010 / Energyboardroom

AECOM has gone through an internal restructuring and a rebranding in the past few months; could you explain to our readers what is the scope of your activities today in Malaysia?

Andy North: To give you a general overview, AECOM started as a management buyout from a five hundred people company in the USA twenty years ago. Over the years the company has grown to 45 000 people, in over hundred countries. The growth model has been a combination of organic growth and acquisition, and over that period more than twenty five companies have been acquired. AECOM used to be the name of the holding company, each entity keeping its name, brand image and management. However late 2009 the company rebranded as AECOM, integrating all the different companies and building one global image for all of its branches. Where there used to be different legacy businesses in one city, we merge them into one office, which is why in Malaysia we just relocated in this building. AECOM as a company has been in Malaysia for over ten years. We had a group mainly focused on environment, and another on engineering and infrastructure. The oil & gas part of our business has traditionally been handled through our environment business. Today the company has a matrix structure, taking into account different geographies, as well as different business lines. Asia is one of these geographic divisions, representing 10% of the global business, including China and Hong Kong, India and South East Asia. Australia and New Zealand form part of another geography. In terms of business lines we have Energy, Environment, Water, Transportation, Buildings etc. The oil & gas sector falls primarily under both energy and environment, depending on the kind of issue it is dealing with. The integrated AECOM is focused on cross-selling, offering integrated solutions across the business lines, as most of our projects tending to involve numerous disciplines.

Asia Pacific represents 20% of AECOM’s business. What is the relative importance of Malaysia and South East Asia to the group?

A.N.: Strategically Asia is very important for the company. About fifty percent of our business is outside the USA. Though we are a Fortune 500 US based company we see most of our potential for growth internationally, Asia is the hot bed of our activities for the future, and we want to see significant growth in Asia for the coming 3-5 years.

AECOM indeed is a Fortune 500 company. How will you replicate your global success in Malaysia?

A.N.: We have started doing this by integrating our operations in Malaysia, and we now have hundred and ten people, which is small in the overall scheme of AECOM but important to start with. We have a good base in the country, are leveraging on the experience that we get from across the region, and the talent pool in Malaysia is strong, therefore Malaysia is seen as one of the catalysts for AECOM’s growth, particularly in South East Asia.

Nesa Albeper de Rozario: We have three strong business lines in Malaysia: Building Engineering, Environment and Energy. This gives us an integrated approach and enables AECOM to serve the oil & gas business from an end to end perspective. This is our key proposition and it is how AECOM makes a difference in this market.

What are the specific solutions that you can offer to oil & gas customers in the region and in Malaysia?

N.A.R.: Right from the beginning of the infrastructure building, our energy group comes in action, doing energy planning, consulting on policies, sustainability, energy efficiency etc. In Malaysia we use a lead certifier, responsible for servicing business need related to GBI – Green Building Index -, how buildings can be green and energy efficient for example. When it comes to commissioning of the facility, we work with the local regulatory agencies such as the department of environment, occupational safety & health, mineral and geosciences etc to get the right permits, do due diligence certifications etc. In India for example AECOM worked for eight months with the second largest oil & gas company in India to develop integrated DHS corporate management systems, to be at international standards when running the operations. AECOM can also do assessments related to plant closure assessment and abandonment, with experts certified in industrial hygiene, health and safety officers etc. The energy group can provide consultancy to make operations lean and efficient, hence reducing emissions. AECOM also currently works with an oil & gas company to lower the sulfur content in its hydrocarbons. Our company has such a large footprint in South East Asia that Malaysia serves as a hub for projects across the entire region, in the Philippines, Thailand etc. Last but not least in Malaysia we have long term contracts with the three major Oil & Gas companies, and we serve all downstream assets in the area of soil & ground water assessment.

Malaysia is determined to become a deepwater hub, but is also looking at developing further its mature fields. Where do you see the most opportunities in Malaysia for AECOM?

N.A.R: One of the key areas we will focus on will be upstream oil & gas business, because of the deep sea prospects. We have been working for many years with the company that did the first deep water drilling activities in the country. The upstream business in Malaysia requires licensing and AECOM has worked with strategic partners to get this licensing. In addition, AECOM has a program called “key client program” to follow clients where they are going and understand their area of needs. For instance if a multinational oil & gas company needs soil & ground water expertise, we will develop our capabilities to move towards these areas. By 2010 the government as a target of 350 MW of the energy to be sources by renewable, therefore we are trying to leverage with the environment and the energy division to provide more solutions in terms of renewable. Moreover the government gives a lot of incentives to make it more attractive for companies to look at these alternatives. If our clients want to develop into energy efficiency, or renewable energy, different areas of AECOM will work together and provide the solution to the client. In terms of renewable, the major multinational oil & gas companies have already found their niche, but we are trying to work closely with PETRONAS to find out what could be their area of expertise in terms of renewable.

Talking about your clients, AECOM has built a strong relationship with PETRONAS. How have you built this relationship and how will you use it to develop even more your network within the region?

A.N.: If we take a step back, a lot of AECOM’s business is derived from MNCs, and we are working for most of the big oil & gas companies globally. PETRONAS is today one of the seven sisters, and it is going global therefore can be considered as a MNC as well. The fact that we have a base in Malaysia and have been doing work with them before enables us to expand this relationship. AECOM is very strong in the Middle East, Australia, Europe and the USA, and our capabilities will help us strengthen our relationship with PETRONAS.

N.A.R.: PETRONAS attracts many investments from the Middle East, which is crucial for AECOM, having a strong presence in this part of the world. Therefore when PETRONAS goes to the Middle East, we are able to leverage on our relationship with the company to get more business there. Moreover on a quarterly basis PETRONAS gets all its entities come to Malaysia, and last year we sat together with the engine division in South Africa, looking at a solution on their database to consolidate all of their oil & gas facilities in all of their areas of business. They recognize us as a company that has the same footprint as them. We want to be one of the first service providers for PETRONAS.

What is AECOM’s competitive edge in Malaysia?

A.N.: Our global footprint is linked to our local capabilities. We are a major global company, number one in ENR ranking and focused on building local businesses. We also want quality people, leading edge expertise and continuously develop innovative approach to the business. We do not want to deliver general engineering and environmental solutions but are focused on giving added value to our clients.

N.A.R: We strive to keep up with the technology that is being used in the oil & gas industry. For example companies using the GTL technology, or other trying to build integrated complexes instead of using the old refineries. We follow up on these technologies and see how we can provide our solutions to help them being energy efficient while converting to this technology.

It is an extremely competitive industry, especially in terms of human resources since engineers have been leaving Malaysia to work abroad. How is AECOM managing to attract and retain people in the company?

A.N.: Malaysia has a big pool of well educated quality staff.Being an international company we are able to utilize resources from other offices across the globe. It also gives our staff the opportunity to gain work experience and develop global knowledge in other countries. The secondments helps to develop the experience of our local staff and to build on our local resource base.

N.A.R.: We also have a strong in-house training program to support the knowledge development of any employee. AECOM wants to be seen as employer of choice, and we have developed programs for many years to make staff want to stay in AECOM.

What are the ambitions for your offices here in the coming years?

A.N.: Profitable growth! AECOM is an ambitious company, and we are determined to strengthen our continuous growth of the past twenty years. Asia is a preferred source of growth for the company and Malaysia is a strategic and important part of our Asian business. AECOM is the number one design firm in Asia, and in the near future South East Asia. We want to grow, get stronger, enhance our services and take a lead in the South East Asian market.

What do you want to tell the Malaysian oil & gas community about AECOM’s commitment to Malaysia ambitions in Malaysia?

A.N.: Malaysia is a strategic country for AECOM, and the oil & gas business is of crucial importance to the country’s economy. The foreseeable future will be highly dependent on the energy sector, especially in oil & gas and AECOM wants to enhance its capabilities and client base to become a leading contributor in Malaysia. We have done a great job at integrating our different companies and we are now focused on cross-selling across these business lines and want to act as an integrated company. The amount of opportunities and growth we are generating from this shift are huge, and we are in the process of rebranding to explain our new offer to clients.

N.A.R.: AECOM being an international integrated business, we are able to bring expertise from the various business lines and serve the oil & gas industry. We already have a strong relationship with the major oil & gas companies as well as with PETRONAS, and can serve upstream, midstream and downstream sectors, because we have the right people to provide the right input. From a client perspective AECOM is a one stop shop consultancy that can provide quality feedback.

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