ASEAN, Vietnam high on GE’s agenda

07:40 | 19/12/2016
On the sidelines of the 2016 Bloomberg ASEAN Business Summit, Wouter Van Wersch, president and CEO of GE ASEAN, talked to VIR’s Hong Anh about GE’s outlook for business in the region – particularly in Vietnam – as well as the company’s hope to co-operate with governments and the private sector to drive growth here.

How would you evaluate the opportunity for GE’s businesses in ASEAN?

GE has been in ASEAN for more than 100 years, a long-term partner of all ASEAN members. In the region we now have nearly 10,000 people and about 18 manufacturing sites. Our objective is to be a long-term player in ASEAN, through local teams and a strong local presence.

In ASEAN there’s a big need for infrastructure in every field – from power transmission, generation, aviation, healthcare, and transportation to oil and gas. We are working together with our customers and also with governments to help them generate growth in the region, and ultimately well-being for the population.

What is the position of Vietnam in GE’s strategy in the region?

Vietnam in particular is making strong progress. The new government clearly wants to make things move, fast. They have set very clear guidelines on what they want to do in terms of power generation and healthcare – and they definitely want to work with companies like GE to carry out their plans. We’re very happy about this and we really want to partner with Vietnam. In Vietnam we’ve been present for 23 years now. We have grown our organisation to 2,500 people, so growth has been big.

Last year we acquired Alstom. This has brought us a lot of additional capacities, teams in Vietnam, and workshops. Earlier this year we acquired Doosan Engineering & Construction HRSG, which brought two factories and 1,500 people. This has really helped strengthen our presence in Vietnam.

Moreover, our Haiphong factory is one of the best factories GE has in the world. It’s run by Vietnamese [management], with state-of-the-art processes, and is delivering equipment to the world. We call it the multimodal “brilliant factory” as it brings in all the capabilities that GE has in digital and processes to make it the most efficient factory. Today we have close to 900 people working in the factory.

We want to build on it and develop it further. We have done a lot of projects in Vietnam. In terms of power, we have had projects in transmission and hydro. We’re also active in healthcare. We have two great customers in aviation, VietJet and Vietnam Airlines. In oil and gas, even though the oil price has just risen, growth is still quite difficult. But there are projects that are about to be implemented, and of course GE is very keen to participate.

To sum up we have a very positive outlook on the country, though we would love it if the decision making process was faster.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was established at the end of 2015. How do you think this will affect GE’s operations? Do you have a common plan for the whole region?

Of the 10 regions of GE operations around the world, this is one of the regions with the strongest growth. We’re going to have double-digit growth this year and we expect good growth for next year too.

I think the AEC is a great idea. I believe we need to work together to strengthen it and make it faster, because even though it’s been launched, the progress has not caught up on the expected speed. We need to make sure the countries’ governments and the private sector work together to make the AEC faster.

In 2015, GE completed the deal to acquire French power and transport engineering company Alstom. How does the acquisition make GE stronger in the region and in Vietnam?

From a human resources point-of-view, the integration has been successful. We have fully combined teams. From a customer perspective, now we have the capability to deliver full solutions as GE and Alstom’s services have always been complementary.

GE is a worldwide leader in gas turbines and on-shore wind turbines, while Alstom is a world leader in coal plants, off-shore wind turbines, and hydro turbines. On the transmission and distribution side, Alstom’s speciality has been in high- and medium-voltage, GE in medium- and low-voltage. Put that together and you get a very strong company that can deliver anything that the world needs, and that Vietnam needs.

On top of this, both are strong in services – so the combination strengthens our services. Now we’re clearly a stronger partner for the Vietnamese government and Vietnamese customers.

Earlier in the year, GE made available the Predix platform, GE's operating system for the Industrial Internet, to outside companies as well as developers, to develop applications that would enable industries to become more efficient. Is Vietnam ready to join this digital transformation?

Predix will enable companies to analyse the huge volume of data coming from their equipment, and predict and give advice on how to better operate the system.

We are talking to a lot of our customers as well as new industry companies that we didn’t have relationships with before, such as companies in telecom and agriculture. They are very interested, because in the end every industry needs to improve productivity and efficiency.

I think this technology is going to be a game changer. Countries like Vietnam can really benefit from it – by going directly into the digital platform, Vietnam will be able to leapfrog technology.

In order to popularise the platform in Vietnam, we have held many workshops and road shows. Recently we talked with the startup community and universities. This is also part of our objective in Vietnam, which is to do more than just business. We want to help the country build capacity. So we spend a lot of time on training and education, and helping young people become a stronger workforce for the future.

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