The world is increasingly becoming smaller with the advent of technology and skills in cross-border businesses. This has given rise to global business giants who have invested in virtually every country. Capital accumulation over the years has enabled such companies to make massive investments in a wide range of sectors and commodities. This means the emergence of enterprises operating in a vast market area and offering a wide range of products across many sectors.
The financial muscle available to such firms is immense. They are thus able to constantly engage in research activities that support constant innovations which ensure continued rolling out of new products driving the long-term growth strategies. This paper discusses the prospects of General Electric Company and analyses the growth and expansion strategies adopted by the firm in the Middle East with a special focus on Saudi Arabia.
General electric Saudi Arabia is a subsidiary of the Multinational called General electric. The multinational is based in the US at Fairfield, Connecticut, and offers a wide range of products ranging from consumer appliances, industrial products, healthcare as well as financial and media services. By the year 2008, the company was rated as the 12th largest company considering revenues and the second largest in terms of market capitalization. Revenues for the year stood at $183 billion and the growth rate since the year 2003 has been in the range of 13%.
Generally, the firm’s broad diversification strategy offers a substantial degree of shield against failed performance in the many sectors involved. If one sector is performing poorly, it is probable that another is performing well thus the firm remains stable. In addition, the big size of the firm enables it to engage in acquisitions as well as the sale of certain business ventures at the onset of any favorable opportunities which present themselves from time to time.
In recent times, the company has declared a global strategy emphasizing healthcare, energy, engine as well as other heavy industries rather than focusing on the service industry. The change of approach to growth and expansion was in the backdrop of the financial crisis. The reason was that half of the company’s profits originate from GE Capital Services. The financial sector was badly hit by the crisis and expectations are that the company could lose as much as $2.9 billion by end of 2010.
The company has its origin from Thomas A. Edison, through the establishment of Edison Electric Light Company in 1878. In fact, the company is the only one listed in the Dow Jones industrial index and was also included in the first index composed in the year 1896.
Some basic statistics point to the enormity of the enterprise. The number of employees worldwide stands at about 323,000 by the end of the year 2008. The company invested over $15 billion in building the intellectual foundation among its employees.
This resulted in the application of about 2537 patents across the globe. The company has also won numerous awards in recent years. In 2009, it was among the top ten companies according to fortune magazines which lists the most admired companies globally while at the same time ranking number one in the electronic industry. In the same year, it ranked number for in the world’s most innovative companies’ category in the ranking done by business week. The U.S Environmental protection agency in conjunction with the department of energy named GE as the Energy star partner for the second year running. The graph below shows the company’s revenue by segment in the year 2008.
As mentioned above, the company runs businesses across the globe. In the Middle East, the company has major locations in Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.
In Bahrain, the company started operations in the year 1973 in the form of a company named Middle East Engineering Ltd. The first assignment was to service gas turbines. In Jordan, the firm entered in the year 2005 with the aim of establishing partnerships with local communities in projects such as radiology and developing the Boeing 787 fleet for the Royal Jordanian. In Kuwait, 1960 was the year of entry marked by partnerships with the government and in establishing and implementing strategic solutions.
Lebanon has a well-developed network for the manufacture and sale of household appliances, energy generation, and improving health and medical technologies. In Omam, the firm has been in operation since the year 1975. It has diverse businesses and focuses on technical leadership, global competitiveness, and establishing partnerships with customers. In Qatar, the company’s success is immense. Interests are widespread including real estate, energy healthcare, and industrial products. The United Arab Emirates has enabled the company to establish partnerships for over 70 years in power, health, aviation, and water.
Overall, the Middle East posted revenues in the range of US$6.6 billion in 2008 and has about 1700 employees and about 10 established facilities. Performance for GE stocks can be seen in graph1 in the appendix. Its annual revenue between the years 1994-2003 are shown in chart 2
According to the company’s senior management in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia remains a country with immense growth opportunities for General Electric. GE’s tagline is “Imagination at work” a phrase. The firm has been in the country since the year 1942. Since then operations in the country have grown to constitute the largest workforce in the middle-east.
The company offers a wide range of products and services in the country. In the world of appliances, the firm is the biggest manufacturer in the country. The two most popular brands are Monogram and GE Profile. In this department, the focus is on producing energy-efficient products of high quality and durability. The category consists of household appliances like dishwashers, freezers, air conditioners, microwaves, refrigerators, ovens, and warming drawers. Others include cooktops, water dispensers, heaters, and softeners (Buckley 2007, 6).
In addition to household appliances, the firm offers consumer electronics. The main aim here is to offer reliable and long-lasting products. Under this category, there are digital cameras, generators, residential home filtration, and other related products. The company also offers a wide range of products related to the delivery of energy in a safe and reliable manner. This is in the form of electrical distribution and as well as control (Products And Services, 2009, 4).
The firm also has invested heavily in the energy sector. Saudi Arabia is rich in oil and gas and GE has moved in to establish itself as a viable force in the production of petroleum products. The company has undertaken to provide cleaner coal through the integrated Gasification Combined Cycle a new technology that leads to the production of less emission. It also has established wind turbines which are estimated to stop greenhouse emissions in the range of 18.3 million tons (Fact sheet, 2009, 3-4).
In the area of finance and business, the company offers loans, leases, commercial insurance as well as equipment and operational leases. It also has a comprehensive healthcare system in medical technologies where it employs research and development to improve diagnostics and the discovery of new drugs and come up with applicable treatment procedures to lengthen the lives of patients. The lighting systems offered by the company are rated as some of the best in the world. The incandescent lamp is one major discovery originating from the company.
The company also offers technology-based solutions in the development of railway systems in Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to the security services which focus on safety and more importantly assisting clients to secure people, their assets, and other commodities. This is through providing unique technologies for enhanced securities at ports of entry, schools, and even in enhancing national security.
Saudi Arabia is a hot country and the availability of water is always a challenge. The few water sources available have saline water. The firm has invested in the desalination of water for household and industrial use in the country. It also has developed capacity in wastewater management in Riyadh and other cities in conjuctio0n with the government.
As can be observed from the above discussion, General electric is a highly successful enterprise in Saudi Arabia. This can only be attributed to the application of sound strategies in all areas of business. This ranges from aspects of financial management, marketing strategies, and resource management techniques that ensure the objectives of the firm are constantly on the growth path.
The first outwardly visible strategy is that of diversification. The firm has invested in almost all the lucrative sectors of the Saudi Arabian economy. Just like the tagline puts it, imagination is a key driver to the companies business. At the entry period, the company only offered products already developed and sold in other countries. Afterward, an inquiry process would guide the management on the best areas of investment within the Saudi Arabian economy. The lucrative areas identified then became unique areas that offer concrete benefits for diversification (Buckley 2007, 5).
This is evidenced by the fact that in the year of entry, the company only concentrated on importing products being produced elsewhere in the country. This included electrical appliances and other products. The opportunity was there to learn as much as possible about the unique circumstances facing the country. For a period of over seven years, not much investment had occurred in any of the indigenous sectors such as gas and oil. Afterward, public and private partnerships took off with a special focus on areas that were problematic for the government due to the scarcity of funds and technology.
One such partnership was established between the government and the firm at the beginning of the year 2009. This was a contract worth about $1billion for the development of a new power project within Saudi Arabia. The company is to provide gas turbine technology with the potential to add about 2000 megawatts. The contract is based on the longstanding relationship between the company and the Energy Commission.
In addition, the company insists on producing high-quality goods and services which makes them easier to market and to be accepted by the Saudi Arabian population. Quality is the hallmark of the business. All the products offered by the firm are known to be of the best quality possible hence the marketing task is simplified.
Moreover, the company puts great emphasis on the hiring of staff members. In Saudi Arabia, GE is known to hire the best brains there is. The human resource management team has managed to maintain a hiring program for fresh graduates. The selection criteria are purely based on merit. The company also seeks to hire experienced employees by offering some of the best remuneration packages offered in the country. This attracts the very best meaning that the workforce is built on a solid background capable of guiding the firms’ operations to great heights. Still, the human resource department has an elaborate program to intensively train the staff members.
Managers are constantly exposed to different situations and given the leeway to develop viable solutions. This is in addition to the in-depth training sessions constantly being undertaken to improve their understanding of the numerous dynamics in the course of conducting business. The effect of these is that the employees are well seasoned to handle any upcoming challenges a factor that works to secure the stability of the business even when faced with major challenges.
As mentioned above the company’s tagline is ‘imagination at work’. This means that the company encourages the exploration of new frontiers in business. It even has a saying “why predict the future when you can create it?” In this regard, the company seeks to develop new products which create new demand instead of focusing on assessing trends in the demand of products. This strategy sets the firm apart from the rest because it encourages the building of new products and investments with minimal competition. This greatly improves the returns for the firm and acts to further strengthen its importance in the country.
This fact is supported by the fact that the company is well known for developing patents across the different sectors globally. In Saudi Arabia, the company was able to introduce gas turbines that had never been in use before. In coming to an agreement with the Saudi Electric Company, no competition was available thus the company was the only party defining the terms of the contract with the SEC. This gave it much advantage in trying to obtain high returns. Such an innovative approach keeps the business away from the pack.
In a bid to improve acceptability among the local society, the company hires local people in almost all the job categories. It would be hard to imagine that the company has roots in the US. This is because its face comprising of top managers is Arabian.
Akram Hamad is the President and the Chief executive of the company in the Middle Eastern region. The company is also committed to establishing partnerships with the government and other private enterprises aimed at offering products that can be seen to directly improve the lives of the locals. One such area is water and sewerage treatment plants in Riyadh. The success in providing fresh water in an environment where the availability of water is a common challenge puts the company on a course of developing good relationships with the citizen.
According to the president of the region, the firm is committed to expanding its footprint in Saudi Arabia. The identified way of doing this is by establishing partnerships instead of going it alone. The advantages of establishing partnerships are numerous. First, the partners are usually better informed on the problem to be solved. This enables the sharing of the company’s high technology as well as financial capabilities with the local knowledge already developed by local partners. This builds a platform on which the company is able to internalize the problems facing the locals and more importantly develop unique solutions tailor-made for the country. Examples of such partnerships can be seen in the establishment of training centers where local training needs are met through joint ventures with local trainers to offer high quality.
Partnerships also aid in ensuring the social, as well as legal benchmarks, are well in place. This is because local firms, as well as public institutions, are better educated on the social-cultural, and more importantly religious considerations applicable in solving certain problems. Saudi Arabia is a Muslim state and adherence to Shariah laws is of paramount importance in ensuring acceptability. In this regard, the company is already in partnership with the government in the water desalination project in Riyadh as well as healthcare provision.
In the field of healthcare, a notable partnership with the ministry of health has seen the introduction of a critical health improvement initiative. The initiative seeks to improve productivity in the operating rooms in four selected hospitals in the Kingdom. Involvement in the health sector has grown significantly such that the company has set up support centers in Riyadh. The intention now is to open a manufacturing facility in Riyadh to produce diagnostic imaging systems which include CT scanners and angiography equipment.
In the private sector, GE and Tamimi have made several joint ventures in exploring business development and employee development opportunities. The best example is the Saudi Arabian Sensing Solutions Co. (SASCO). This is a center specializing in testing and calibrating sensing products. In another joint venture, the company invested nearly $10 million in the establishment of a water technology center for offering water to industrial users. The venture is being extended to incorporate water recycling and process solutions for local customers. In addition, the two companies intend to open a Power Technology Center for manufacturing generators, electromagnetic repairs, and field servicing. The project is to cost $80 million.
It also works in partnership with the private sector in areas such as training oil and gas exploration.
The company also adopts local business practices in a bid to build local support. This is evidenced by the floating of Sukuk instead of the bond.
The marketing strategies adopted by the firm are highly effective. First, the firm has positioned its brands as being of very high quality in comparison to others. The products made meet high requirements set by the firm. In addition, the company engages in extensive programs as its corporate social responsibility. Values of generosity, care, and kindness are highly valued in the Muslim world and the firm is not left behind in displaying these virtues.
Ecomagination is a term used by GE in reference to its commitment to solving the environmental challenges facing the world today. This way, the company seeks to integrate issues of the environment into all its projects. The fact that environmental concerns are at the heart of a majority of people means that GE is in line with what the people want. It exploits this by applying new technologies which lessen environmental degradation. Indeed developing such technologies offers great opportunities for future growth as the world moves to adopt more environmentally friendly technology.
As mentioned above, General electric is a highly successful company globally. The same advantages available for the global multinational also largely apply to the Saudi Arabian subsidiary. The first major factor which gives it a substantial degree of competitiveness is financial strength. As can be seen in the history section, the mother company incorporated in the US is an old company that has experienced enormous success throughout its existence.
The many years of capital accumulation have enabled the company to build a huge capital base. This capital availability enables the company to make investments in areas that experience barriers to entry due to the high initial capital requirements. This way, the company has been able to establish numerous monopolies which offer high levels of profits compared to the competitive sectors. This is evidenced by the fact that most of the investments made involve capital injections not lower than $8 million dollars. Again, the firm is able to engage in mergers or disposals at the best time as they do not significantly influence the firm’s standing. In addition, the healthy financial position enables it to access credit much easier to fund projects in the region.
Secondly, the firm has had a culture of encouraging innovation since its inception. The hallmark of the firms’ operations is based on technology. Through the years research has been a top priority for the firm. This is evidenced by the many commercial patents originating from the company. Through intensive investments in research, the company is able to grow its markets by constantly developing new products or better quality products from those offered by competitors.
The long years of business also offer the company great experiences which come in handy in tackling problems. The over seventy years of operations in the country offers the company a strong base in terms of understanding the challenges it faces. Again, due to the fact that the company is multi-national, it is able to borrow ideas from subsidiaries in other countries and implement them locally without having to invest too much in research and development.
This reduces the costs of rolling out some of the new products in comparison with the competition. At the same time, some of the key staff members are constantly given opportunities to explore what other related companies are doing in other countries to solve certain problems. This exposure helps open up the minds of these employees to the world of possibilities which further drives innovation.
Again, the country has build trust over the years for diligence and commitment towards honoring partnerships. This makes it much easier for the firm to be accepted as a partner even in the face of competition. The Saudi Arabian government has on several occasions expressed confidence in the partnerships established with the company.
The fact that the firm has a wide range of goods and services cannot be over-emphasized. The advantages of full diversification work for the firm. First, it is shielded from seasonal fluctuations in the market in regard to some of the products it offers. Poor performance by one product is replaced by the improved performance of other products. It is also able to gather knowledge from the sale of different products cutting across different economic sectors. Such knowledge is used in future activities in business development (GE highlights commitment to the Middle East at Saudi Water and Power Forum, 2010, 5).
Due to the application of good human resource management practices, the company has accumulated a highly qualified workforce which drives its business practices. The trainee management program has been in progress for a very long time leading to the development of top-notch professionals in each and every department. This is not only good in facilitating innovation, but it also leads to a reduction in costs through the excellent execution of tasks. This advantage is compounded by the fact that the firm has adequate financial resources to highly remunerate such employees hence reduce the rate of turnover. With such a workforce, the firm is well able to stay ahead of others.
The administration practices adopted are also cost-effective and supportive of the general business activities of the firm. The administration of the company in Saudi Arabia is highly decentralized. Each of the numerous areas of operation is headed by capable managers.
The managers are largely able to maneuver and make independent decisions relating to the challenges they face. This ensures the incorporation of as many viewpoints as possible through the encouragement of participation in the decision-making process. This way, there are mutual benefits. The firm gains through the quality decisions made in resolving emerging problems and the motivational effect on the employees leading to high retention rates. The employees on the other hand not only feel motivated to work even better but are also better satisfied with their jobs.
Expansion and growth
As mentioned above, GE is an aggressive company with the adequate financial muscle to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge. The firm focuses on expanding in areas with a long-term view towards investment. It also looks at the possibility of future competition and positions itself appropriately to wade off possible cutthroat competition.
Since the start of operations in Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East region, the process of expansion has never lost momentum. Until the current day, the main focus has been on infrastructure, clean energy, transport water availability, and healthcare. The Middle East still presents growth opportunities to date (Lara, 1996, 8).
As has been discussed above the company has had a footing in the Middle East region for about 100 years. Most of the setup programs have been through the establishment of local partnerships to solve problems. At least ten facilities have already been established within the region offering different products. They include three healthcare service support and training centers situated in Dammam, Riyadh, and Jeddah all in Saudi Arabia.
These offer support to the healthcare institutions in the different cities. Secondly, GE El Seif Healthcare is a joint venture with El Seif Development in Riyadh. This is a high-class health facility that offers specialized treatment procedures not available elsewhere in the country. The Emirates Test Engine plant in the United Arab Emirates is also partly owned by the company in addition to the GE money established in partnership with Al Futtaim Group.
There are also water and sewerage treatment facilities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. In Qatar, the company has solid partnerships for oil and gas production. In Bahrain, the company has an energy optimization and control project in addition to a graduate management program (Lara, 1996, 2).
On top of these projects, there are several new ones that were completed in the year 2009 while others are to be completed in the year 2010. This is a show of the confidence expressed in the Middle East by the company’s management. The healthcare manufacturing plant in Riyadh is to be opened soon and is expected to be the first of its kind in the region. The research and technology center in Qatar opened its doors in the year 2009 and so did the ConocoPhillips &GE water research facility.
The recent development in Dubai is the Dubailand University which is set to open in the course of the year. Most of these developments have been accomplished within the last 10 years. This is a confirmation that GE sees the Middle East region as one full of opportunities and having a great future in the form of incomes for the people which will enable them to be able to purchase the products offered (GE Gains Additional Commitments for Power Projects in Saudi Arabia, 2009, 2).
In the immediate future, the company has made several commitments to grow even further in the region. GE Energy Financial Services in partnership with Amway Alkhaleej has plans to invest $ 1 billion in energy water and other related industrial and infrastructure developments within Saudi Arabia. Again, GE aviation and the Saudi Arabian Airlines have established a new partnership where GE will aid in the building of a high-class facility to serve the regional and local market in addition to the overhauling of plane engines (GE to supply $1B of gas turbines to Saudi Arabia, 2009, 3).
According to the management, GE is also committed to addressing the country’s pressing needs mainly constituting employment, training as well as the development of youth. The company is fully committed to growth as the region anticipates a period of high economic growth in the near future (GE Gains Additional Commitments for Power Projects in Saudi Arabia, 2009, 2)
Summary of GE SWOT Analysis.
|Strengths ||Weaknesses ||Opportunities ||Threats |
Due to the fact that GE offers a wide range of products, competition for the company cannot be pinpointed to a few companies in Saudi Arabia. In some of the products offered, there is hardly any viable competition in the country. Most of the major international corporations with operations similar to those of GE have not moved in as strongly as has GE in the Middle East. In addition, the partnerships established, with public institutions wade off immediate competition. In some of the partnerships, there are provisions to allow the company to recoup its investments before other players can be allowed to invest in the sector. This gives the company time to establish itself well in the relevant market before competitors set in.
Again, the fact that the company engages in partnerships involving huge sums of money, as well as technological advancement, means that few companies are able to come into the same business. These two factors go a long way in shielding the country’s business establishments from the competition.
However, there is competition from many companies which sell similar products. In the merchandise departments, there are numerous competitors offering imported appliances and electronic gadgets. Companies like LG, Sony, and Samsung compete for the market share for items like refrigerators and other household appliances.
In the healthcare sector, there are global competitors who have also invested su7bstantially in the Middle East. The most important competitors are Siemens Medical Solutions, Philips, and Toshiba.
Challenges Issues and Prospects
GE is well known for its built-up ability to tackle some of the toughest challenges experienced in Saudi Arabia. Such challenges include poor access to fresh water, sewerage treatment, inadequate technologies in the healthcare sector, and the production of clean energy among others. The company has adequate resources to use in the slightest opportunities. This is a major advantage that really does propel the firm.
However, there still exist some challenges which the firm has to continually overcome. First is the fact that due to the adequacy of funds for investment, there is a tendency for the firm to splash money on any promising idea which comes up. This means that there are possibilities of money being invested sub-optimally. Returns from some of the investments done by the firm take too long to mature and even when they do, the period before the full funds are recovered is lengthy. This means that funds are tied up for a long adding to financing costs (Fact sheet, 2009, 3).
Secondly, there is always the need to maintain momentum in the market. The fact that Saudi Arabia is moving towards high-level growth requires that companies continue to roll out new products and services. This is still an expensive affair even for big companies such as GE. In addition, there is always the threat of entry of equally big multinationals interested in investing in related projects. This is escalated by the fact that the Middle East region in conjunction with the expansive Asian region is undoubtedly proving to have the highest levels of economic growth making all the big firms with huge capital shift their attention to the region (GE opens water and process technology center in Saudi Arabia, 2009, 8).
The integration of GE and the entire Middle Eastern region is very high. This makes the firm a market leader in most of the goods and services it offers. Nevertheless, the continued expansion will put the company way apart from the rest. On this frontier, the company is aggressively expanding in the area. Major headlines in the media have put GE on the list of the region’s great companies (GE opens water and process technology center in Saudi Arabia. 2009, 10).
The prospects of the company are very promising. With the continued expansion and investments in opportune areas, the next phase of the companies operations in the region will be that of gaining returns. Certain sectors such as healthcare and water treatment services as well as infrastructure have high levels of demand despite the high investments already made in the sectors. The most important element in running the business is identifying areas of potential and continued establishment of beneficial partnerships with local firms and public enterprises to offer products that have proved to be difficult to provide mainly due to technological inadequacy or shortage of finances. This is what has powered the company’s recognition in the region and led to the award-winning path (GE highlights commitment to the Middle East at Saudi Water and Power Forum. 2010, 3).
Conclusions and Recommendation
GE continues to be a global leader in a wide range of operations. Saudi Arabia is a great Kingdom offering immense opportunities for growth in a wide range of business prospects. The most important factor leading to the firms’ excellent performance in all its operations is the ability to engage in research work which leads to innovations with the ability to define the market and even create new demand for goods and products. Such efforts should be maintained and even scaled up in a lucrative region such as Saudi Arabia.
The future for the company is indeed very bright. This is because it has all the basic elements of successful business entrepreneurship. Everything starting from the human resources, equipment, technology, and financial strength seems to be in place for the company. All that is required is a continued commitment by the top management and advisors to identify areas of opportunities conduct extensive and in-depth business analysis to determine the level of business viability for the business ideas.
Ecomagination will prove to be one greatest advantages for the firm with the entrance of a growth face with heightened sensitivity to environmental concerns. The ability to develop environmentally friendly technologies will greatly improve the future prospects of the firm.
Also, with the continued acceleration of growth in economies around the world, there is the need to continue investing in the energy sector as well as in oil and gas exploration. This is because demand for these products can only go up meaning that there will be a need to boost supplies in the future. Saudi Arabia is rich in such minerals hence resenting great opportunities for GE.
In conclusion, GE is definitely on the path towards becoming the most dominant company in Saudi Arabia. The benefits of the company to the country and the entire region are great. The firm provides employment to a large number of people in the region while at the same time contributing significantly to the foreign direct investment inflows in Saudi Arabia. According to the Saudi Arabian government, it is a great blessing for the country to have attracted a great investor such as GE. The country has gained a lot from the business acumen as well as the technological advancement of this great corporation.
There is growing optimism among the Saudi Arabian community on the firm’s ability to conduct benefit the country. This not only adds to the acceptability of the firm in the region but also the desire of many private as well as public companies to establish partnerships with the company in a bid to solve the challenges facing them. This adds to the opportunities available to the firm. Again, GE has been able to successfully engage management as well as operational processes which cut across cultures. The firm engages in Saudi Arabia as though it incorporated there. It has a goal of developing products for “Saudis by Saudis” a situation that is not only true but also very practical for the company.
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