Straight to the Point – Patrick Fallon, Deputy CEO at Byrne Rental
In conversation with Patrick Fallon, Deputy CEO at Byrne Rental
- Goals and objectives for 2021
At Byrne, we believe that 2021 will continue to be a year which will allow us to emerge from Covid-19 and be able to return to some sort of normal. The market remains strong, albeit competitive. We have been through downturns before, probably never on a scale like this, but we also believe that with every downturn there’s an upturn and we are going to emerge stronger. As times like this tend to push you towards reviewing your processes, operational efficiency comes into play. Also, it sharpens your focus on the most likely areas of new business potential.
Here in the Middle East, the rental industry is by international standards quite immature. It is getting stronger and becoming more in demand all the time, with more players coming into the market. There’s a bright future for it however, there is work to do in terms of bringing into being a model that can penetrate more widely into different industries.
- Operating and maintaining their business during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020
By implementing best practices across all geographies where we operate, we ensured our health and safety teams worked round the clock with our staff of 1,500-plus people, both in the field and across the depot network, to quickly educate them on the Covid-19 protocols and ensure that we had appropriate PPE in place to ensure their safety.
We did not make any redundancies, instead, we adapted very quickly to the situation across most operations. We took people who were typically operating in the events and O&G sectors, and we quickly deployed them to support governments and health services across the region to rapidly set up quarantine centers to fight the pandemic. We did this most notably in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent in Oman. To successfully shift from O&G and events to meet a demand driven by a pandemic we feel is a testament to the agility of the company, its capabilities and its people.
- Market overview in the UAE and the Middle East and identifying key trends
The growing trend and awareness of sustainability in business is a positive sign for Byrne. Many companies as an example in the O&G sector, are taking various initiatives towards sustainable growth and to support the country’s economy. For instance, in February 2020, Dubai and Abu Dhabi announced to jointly develop a gas reservoir Jebel Ali Project, aimed to bring ADNOC and Dubai Supply Authority together. These infrastructural developments are making the UAE O&G industry more attractive for the foreign investors. For instance, Italy’s O&G giant Eni and OMV, an Australian O&G company, are investing USD 5.8 billion in ADNOC’s refinery unit for 35% share. Moreover, the government of UAE is focusing on developing sour gas resources to fulfill the increasing domestic demand. These developments amongst others are driving the infrastructural development in the UAE, hence, driving demand for construction equipment in O&G projects.
Also pertaining to sustainability, is another trend projected for 2021 that bodes well for us as a company – the increased interest in used and rented equipment. Construction firms will continue to consider renting equipment or buying used merchandise instead of buying new equipment, as renting instead of buying enables companies to keep up with latest equipment and technological advancements at lower prices. Rented equipment, in particular, enables construction businesses to see if different machines deliver the expected payoffs. If they do, representatives can make decisions later about whether to purchase them. Similarly, used equipment is often made available with the latest software updates and kept in good condition, making the not-quite-new options appealing to firms that want to stay competitive while saving money.
- Customer Satisfaction
Our approach to business most notably when it comes to adding new products, has always been driven by our customers and the needs our customers come up with. That is not to suggest that it is done more by accident than by design and good judgement, but it does mean that as markets change and new standards are implemented, that then drives us to take action.
- Main Challenges
The main challenges we have faced have been offsetting the negative effects of the pandemic and the ripple effect of this is on-going and while we see it is improving, we expect it to continue for the near future. For example, the slowdown or the postponement of planned shutdowns that would typically happen in the O&G sector, which represent a huge market for us. In addition, companies made changes to their production capacities and activities, again key areas where we would be a supplier of products and services. An additional challenge was sustaining our events division. The events industry was decimated by Covid-19.
We have been a leading supplier in that space for many years. 2020 had promised to be a huge year, not just here in the UAE where the events industry is well matured, but also in Saudi Arabia for example, where new mega-events were planned. A certain resilience has been maintained, but obviously the events side of things has had to take a backseat because it just has not been possible to hold events and that’s unlikely to change until we have large scale vaccinations.
We also faced a scenario where in a pandemic situation people get into the process of tightening spending and preserving cash. This preservation of cash means that we end up trying to manage credit arrangements with our clients. Thankfully, we have maintained very open communication with clients and partners and I think we’ve come through that. There is however, a residue of uncertainty because of the pandemic which every business must work to overcome.