INTERVIEW | David Raphaël Busuttil: Malta with an important role to play in oil and gas industry

When it comes to oil and gas, the immediate Mediterranean market is set to experience increasing demands on energy and infrastructure, generating more opportunities for job creation. David Raphaël Busuttil, PB Group’s new Chief Executive Officer tells BusinessToday why Malta should not shy away and underestimate its own potential in the industry

David Raphaël Busuttil
David Raphaël Busuttil

How do you feel leading a company as its CEO at such a particular point in time?

It is a challenging period but any crisis brings its own opportunities. The international situation shows us how business leaders and entrepreneurs have to remain on the alert and resilient to implement changes for growth and innovation. In this context, I am enthusiastic of having joined PB Group, where I found a highly motivated and dynamic team focused on results. I am also privileged to be backed by a board of experienced professionals.

What was your first priority since taking up your new position?

These past first few weeks have been dedicated to understanding the Group’s values and strategic objectives. The key cornerstone of this project starts with our people and that has been the primary focus.  The sustained momentum with which the Group closed last year has increased our operational needs, and consequently we have expanded our employee base by 25% over the first quarter of 2021. Clearly, we cannot grow without professional people backing us and our future expansion will require identifying similarly competent people.

Where do you see the company in the next five years?

Whereas today’s economic volatility makes forecasting difficult, our strength has always been our resilience to react swiftly to the changing markets. Today, the Group has reached maturity to move on to the next stage of growth with ambitious plans, such as our upcoming investment in an oil and gas knowledge hub to consolidate industry services, while making further use of our Malta base to give impetus to our key African markets.

The Group will continue developing and investing in its people and services while expanding its market share in select territories. We also plan to expand our existing portfolio of products and services, with the addition of refurbishment, engineering and fabrication services whilst growing our HVAC services and ancillary services.

Our market focus remains Africa, where growth potential is at its highest and although we are already present in a dozen very active African markets, we plan on covering more territories. In parallel, we anticipate development of the other sectors of our group, namely further expansion of our logistics company and of our luxury properties concept.

How do you look at the current regional industry?

Recently, we have witnessed several international mergers, acquisitions and divestments of key industry operators, equipment manufacturers and service providers. These changes are not unusual in our industry, but there has been an increasing trend in that direction. For an industry that is traditionally affected primarily by the price of oil, these changes may cause systemic issues.

The Mediterranean market is set to increase through growing coastal population, directly increasing demands on energy and infrastructure and generating more opportunities for job creation. Key among these elements is the expected investment into Libya’s oil and gas infrastructure. Although a shift in interest in nearshore and offshore operations in the Mediterranean exists, the geopolitical tensions raised last year in the Eastern Mediterranean remain a cause for concern.

What role could Malta have within this context?

Malta should play an active role without shying away or underestimating its own potential in the industry. There are a handful of local players in this field, who could be brought together to form an industry built on knowledge and experience, with the potential to contribute more value to the economy. Furthermore, one would welcome support from the authorities to federate joint action, ensuring high standards of regulation for the oil and gas industry which is set to evolve and grow. Bottom line, our location remains relevant and there is scope for more investment in a sector where Malta can provide a strong pull factor for industry players.

How challenging is it for a company in your industry to think global?

One limiting factor for global action from Malta, pandemic aside, has been the limited availability of decent direct travel routes, short of taking tiresome connecting flights. We appreciate that a small country like ours cannot have all the links to the world, but this reality holds particularly true for Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia, ironically our closest markets. Although we have our local country managers, we still need that movement of people, in and out from our various offices and clients. We suffer this same situation in Congo and Uganda where we still need to be present and interact directly, beyond virtual meetings.

What attributes have led to the successful internationalisation of the group?

Openness to cultures, communication, and commitment to one’s objectives are a must for internationalisation. PB’s success was possible by bringing diverse multicultural teams to work together and  identifying the right people to work with.  When we invest in territories, we understand the value of going local, with local knowledge, local contacts, requiring one to work within the local framework of business, time management, and so on.

One common failing by companies trying to enter international markets is the limited understanding and appreciation of what it entails. Entering a new country is always a risk but in these territories, it is essential to think long term by investing, otherwise growth potential will be stunted.

This industry involves infrastructural investments, careful planning and decision-making. At PB Group we know the time it takes to develop a new territory and our presence in these territories is the fruit of long-term development, investment in time and resources over many years. We are there for the long term and we will pursue in that direction.

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