Friday, September 05, 2008

Planes, trains and automobiles

Original Article-

Nabil Habayeb, President and CEO,
Middle East and Africa, for General Electric.
The world's biggest manufacturer of industrial equipment and power generation is aiming to tap into growing demand for alternative energy in the Middle East through an $8bn partnership with Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co.

In turn, state-owned Mubadala aspires to become a top ten investor in the US industrial giant. With power plants, aircraft parts and green energy in high demand in the UAE, the stage is set for the new partnership.

In June you signed a high-profile agreement with Mubadala in Abu Dhabi. What does this entail?
The framework agreement is in three parts. One is a joint venture for a financial services firm, and we are in the final stages of having the necessary agreement to move forward with that. The second part is a technical cooperation which involves the Masdar City initiative.

That will have a technology centre as part of it, and also involves cooperation with aerospace and environmental projects. The third part is Mubadala's purchase of GE stock - which I cannot comment upon.

How many staff will you employ at your new Abu Dhabi technology centre, and will they come from the region or be relocated?

We hope to be able to staff our Abu Dhabi research team with about a hundred people. From our point of view we want this sooner rather than later. We're going to have to bring in our internal experts to help set it up, but then they will be looking at recruiting from within the region because we want to develop the local talent. Plus there's a lot of migration of regional talent back into the region now, so hopefully we'll be able to tap into that.

The only way for us to really be local and understand the local market and grow within it is to do so with the local people. This is our strategy, across the Middle East and Africa we are up to around 3300 people now, and the vast majority of those are people from the region.

And what about your work with the Masdar 'Green City' initiative?

‘Ecomagination' is a major initiative for GE in which we look to develop eco-friendly products, whether it's in the aerospace side, water desalination, eco-efficient waste distribution, renewable energy, or lower-emission combustion systems.

We are leading through Ecomagination, so when the whole Masdar Group started three or four years ago we were one of the original sponsors and founding members of the initiative. We very much see what Masdar City wants to do, as in line with what we want to do.

As the world's largest manufacturer of power plant equipment, have you spoken to any Gulf states over nuclear energy programmes?

There are certain procedures when it comes to nuclear energy that every government has to fulfill, before we can talk to them about solutions from the nuclear energy side. This is a big area of interest for us and one we have been active in on a global basis, working with local governments that are at the stage that we can legally talk to them.

We are talking to the UAE government about what we can do with nuclear energy.

We certainly have engaged in discussions. We have had levels of discussion with every Gulf nation that has announced it wants to participate in nuclear energy, although I don't really want to discuss it because it is at a very sensitive level.

So just how important is the Middle East to GE's operations?

The Middle East is a very important region for us and one of the fastest growing for the company. The partnership we have in Abu Dhabi is like the partnerships we have in many other places in the region, so we have partnerships in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, and across the whole region, which we value highly.

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