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GE comes to town
General Electric (GE), one of the largest companies in the world, says that it is looking to increase its profile in T&T as it sees the Caribbean in general and this country in particular as being areas of growth for the multinational conglomerate. GE International Inc, in collaboration with InvesTT, held an event called One GE Day Conference, on April 9 at the Hilton during which the company showcased its abilities in equipment provision and servicing in the oil and gas sector, water treatment, power generation and healthcare.
“My mandate is to grow GE’s Latin American business by 10 per cent, but in some regions, like Central American and the Caribbean, we are targetting close to 30 per cent growth,” said Luis Carrillo, GE’s president and CEO of the Andean and Caribbean regions.
Carrillo said GE is very much aligned in what T&T is doing as the company focuses on infrastructure and energy “and that is where Trinidad plays its best. I think we can do alot of things in Trinidad and the country should be able to help us achieve that 10 per cent growth.” GE’s revenue in 2013 was US$146 billion, while its net income totaled US$14 billion.
Carrillo said the remit of his portfolio encompasses from Bolivia to Guatemala and all of the Caribbean islands—a total of 45 countries and territories, which includes the Guyanas and the Dutch, French and Spanish Caribbean. Based in Lima in Peru, Carrillo, an electrical engineer, said he was new to the job of president of GE’s Andean and Caribbean region but had worked with GE for 14 years.
GE chose to hold the event in Trinidad, Carrillo said, because it has seen business expand exponentially, which has made T&T a “very important market” for the company since the group established a presence here 14 years ago. “The event gives us the opportunity to showcase all the different technologies that GE has to offer, so that we can bring existing and prospective customers together to look at opportunities.”
Now that GE has a local presence and resources dedicated to the region, it can leverage the scope of the group to make a much more potent business proposition to its partners, Carrillo said. This means that GE employees in the region can begin to look at more complex projects and how to partner between different businesses.
The GE executive said while the group maintains a small office in Port-of-Spain, some of its employees are stationed at Atlantic LNG and PowerGen, as part of the company’s contractual obligation to maintain equipment at those companies. On the issue of GE’s positioning in the supply of healthcare equipment, Carrillo noted that it was one of the sectors in which the technology advances most rapidly, which means that every two years the group has new equipment to market.
Competing with China
Asked his opinion on the Government’s relationship with China and that country’s construction of hospitals in T&T, which may come packaged with side agreements to supply equipment, Carrillo said: “That could be the case. We don’t mind having competition of course. We feel that GE has superior technology, a great advantage and we are going to do our best to keep promoting that technology in all markets.
“I think we need to continue working with the Government and with private companies to see what kinds of solutions and packages we continue to do in Trinidad.” The GE executive said that he did not know whether the Chinese have an unfair advantage over other providers as he did not know the specifics. And he added: “I don’t think you can blame anyone for trying to package anything. I see it as competition and we need to be more creative and provide a better solution for the Government and we are going to do that.”
Asked if he had heard of any concerns about the procurement processes in T&T, Carrillo said: “Not to me specifically. Most of our business is being conducted through private channels, so I have not heard any specific concerns. We are always on the look out for any concerns because as a company we always like to operate in very open and transparent environments.
“Up to this point, we are fairly confident that we can do business in T&T in the way that GE operates everywhere. But if something changes, we act accordingly,” said Carrillo
On the issue of power generation, he said the good thing about GE is that it does not have to sell a new turbine if it is not needed. He said the company can always provide upgrades to existing power generation equipment, which would improve efficiency and lower the cost of production of electricity. Such upgrades have the potential to significantly improve the infrastructure of countries, he said.
Carrillo said: “If there is a big margin of electricity reserves in T&T, that’s good, but there are always things that can be done in terms of: do they have the right technology; are they burning the fuel as cleanly as possible; is the cost of production efficient by today’s standards.”
He said that power generation technology has improved significantly over the years. This means that a plant that has been operating since 2000 “may not be at a point at which it is the most competitive.” He said GE can do upgrades, exchange parts, improve the combustion systems and reduce emissions, which he said was the future for the company.
The event was attended by GE’s existing and potential customers, government officials, distributors and representatives for the company’s businesses in oil and gas, water treatment, power generation and healthcare. The investment promotion agency, InvesTT, collaborated with GE in hosting the meeting.
“I think that InvesTT is definitely an organisation that is helping to attract companies. The idea of organising the event was shared with them and they have been a great partner in organising this and getting the right people involved. They play a significant role. It’s something that we see also in other countries: government’s being more active and open to get private companies to invest, showcase solutions and find ways to continue the development of the country.”
Both Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and Minister of Trade Vasant Bharath spoke at the function. Asked how does working for a huge conglomerate help or hinder his job, Carrillo said: “On the pro side, a conglomerate has a huge scope and breadth of products that can drive synergies between the different businesses and present a very potent solution to a customer or partner.” He said GE can do many things that a smaller company cannot do.
On the other hand, a conglomerate such as GE is complex, operating in different geographies, languages, cultures and product lines “and it requires alot of energy to get all the different businesses and initiatives to be focused in the right direction. We are doing that very effectively as we are driving our strategy around simplification to make GE behave more like a fast, digital type of organisation than a huge conglomerate.”