DuPont looks for expansion in Gulf markets

US company looking at infrastructure and energy projects.

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE // DuPont, the US science-based products, materials and services group, sees big Middle East energy and infrastructure projects as a chance to expand in the region. The company is looking at opportunities in the developing world as it seeks to increase sales by 10 per cent and profits by 20 per cent annually over the next three years.

"We are harnessing the rich disciplines of science to deliver game-changing solutions to our customers," said Nick Fanandakis, DuPont's executive vice-president and chief financial officer. "We are tackling the big challenges. We're doing all this in a focused way." After undergoing two corporate re-organisations last year that involved cutting more than 4,500 staff, DuPont is seeking to tap into global business opportunities presented by major trends in economic development. One of those is the rapid expansion of economies outside the industrialised world, driven by population growth, urbanisation and the expectation of an increasing quality of life in emerging regions.

By 2012, the company expects to generate 35 per cent of its revenue from developing countries, up from about 29 per cent last year. DuPont is also paying particular attention to the growing demand in emerging economies for new services to enhance clean energy, energy efficiency and agricultural initiatives, and products such as its patented material Kevlar that is used to protect people, critical equipment and the environment.

In the Middle East, major infrastructure projects such as road building, power stations and the expansion of the region's oil and gas output capacity are creating unprecedented demand for the advanced materials and protective services that DuPont offers. Saudi Arabia is already the company's biggest customer for new polymers that can be added to road tar to increase its elasticity, leading to less wear and tear on road surfaces.

DuPont's patented Elvaloy asphalt modifier is also being incorporated into runways at the New Doha International Airport, which is expected to open next year, said Felipe Chavez, the company's global leader for paving solutions. The DuPont protection services division sees large business opportunities in the Middle East's oil and gas exploration, production and refining sectors. Kevlar, found in bullet-proof and knife-resistant vests, is as effective in protecting pipelines from ruptures caused by abrasion as it is in saving the lives of soldiers, policemen and, increasingly, oilfield workers exposed to violent attack.

In offshore drilling, especially in deep waters, including those found off the Mediterranean coasts of oil and gas exporters such as Libya and Egypt, Kevlar fibres are used to strengthen the flexible "umbilical" pipes and tethers that connect floating drilling and production platforms to well-heads on the seabed. Onshore, Kevlar fibres are increasingly used instead of steel to strengthen the tyres not only of heavy equipment and lorries, but also of ordinary passenger vehicles, including those likely to ply the Gulf region's expanding road network.

A new use for Kevlar is in lightweight armour for military vehicles. This could be important in places such as Iraq as the country mounts reconstruction programmes amid ongoing security threats. Nomex, another top-selling DuPont fibre, is used to make flame-resistant clothing, which is especially important at oil refineries and gas-processing plants. "The need for protection is growing around the world," said Mark Vergnano, an executive vice president of DuPont. "Population growth and urbanisation are increasing the need for personal protection and the need for military response."