The top-manager of a worldwide known company producing fire protection materials analyzes the condition of the Russian market and shares the prospects
— Mr Spillemaeckers, you are supervising the PROMAT brand in Russia which is associated with the production of fire proofing materials and solutions. Is PROMAT an independent company, or a part of an international holding? How long have the company’s fire-proof materials been presented on the global construction market?
— PROMAT is 100% daughter of ETEX, which is a 100% private owned Belgian company with its headquarters in Brussels, it works in 70 countries and has factories in 40 countries. In 2015 its total turnover was more than €3 bln.
— In your opinion, which is the main mission of the company producing fire proof materials?
— As I have already said, PROMAT has been part of ETEX for more than 50 years, and for all these years PROMAT has brought the awareness of fire in a lot of countries, and the need for fire protection in construction. And basically this is still the mission of PROMAT to prevent accidents via application of modern solutions, to save lives of people with good fire protection means.
— How long has PROMAT worked in Russia? Could you share the company’s strategic development plans on the Russian market?
— PROMAT has been working on the Russian market for about 11 years. And our strategic plan in Russia is the same as everywhere: to build up a well-adjusted fire protection business. Why Russia? It is the biggest construction market in Europe. So we think we have to be present and help the Russian people to organize high quality fire protection.
— Are you going to build a factory in Russia and produce materials here saving thus on logistics and import duties?
— There are enough materials present on the Russian market, but they are not always so performing. To build a factory we first need to achieve critical volume of fire protection materials purchasing. But up to now the awareness of fire protection is not big enough in Russia.
Nevertheless, a big part of products is already made here, in Russia. And we keep on investing in the factory in Detchino (Kaluga region), not far from Moscow. If the business goes the way we think, in two or three years the company is going to enter mass production of fore protection board in Detchino.
— In what direction does the international fire protection materials production develop. What new technologies or materials may be applied? How does PROMAT work with it?
— There are two main directions of fire protection materials production. And we apply both. The first one is the development of materials containing a lot of crystalline water. When there is a fire and the temperature achieves 100 degrees, it remains at the same level until all the water is gone. The second way ought to be followed – is the production of the so called super-insulators: first of all microporous technology or aerogel which basically isolate people from fire.
In our engineering operations we use both technologies, and we are developing them further. But the main thing we are doing now is combining those two technologies: materials with crystalline water and super-insulators together.
We have own research and development centers in Belgium and in France, and about 90 researchers work there. In each country, including Russia, PROMAT has technical departments combining engineering and research opportunities. Besides, their task is to adapt all innovations of PROMAT to the requirements and conditions of the local market and legislation, and develop new system solutions.
— What measures, from your point of view, should be taken by the Russian Government to support foreign companies investing in the Russian market? For instance, what kind of support would you like to receive in two-three years when you take the decision to develop production at the factory in the Detchino technopark?
— The only support we’d prefer to have is the administrative one: that is getting permits for the factory and like that.
— It’s a pity, but one has to get more than a hundred of permission papers in Russia as yet.
— Yes, this is a problem. And the biggest hurdle for us to take. On the other hand, the Russian state has shown a lot of wisdom by developing good fire protection legislation. It protects the people. And now more efforts should be taken to be sure that the legislative acts are followed.
By the way, the main difference between the European and the Russian fire protection markets is that in Europe contractors follow legislation and regulatory norms much more carefully.
— And what could you propose how to fix this problem in Russia?
— We saw the similar situation in different countries of Western Europe. It should be noted that introducing independent fire police really contributed a lot to the legislation to be followed, for instance, in Italy or Switzerland. But I stress, it should be really independent.
— What does your company do to promote your fire protection materials to the Russian market?
It is PROMAT’s job – to promote, to instruct, to educate, to tell architects and designers what best solutions for fire protection of buildings may be applied, what materials exist and may be used. We should not hide ourselves behind legislation but take responsibility for our decisions, and we do it spending necessary time on specification towards architects and engineers.
— Could you please mention some large-scale construction projects worldwide, including Russia, where PROMAT products have been applied?
— PROMAT materials have been used in a lot of petro-chemical plants in Russia. Some towers of the Moscow-City are protected with PROMAT products. You may choose any big building, practically each high-rise building in the world, – and there is a big chance that PROMAT materials have been used there: the twin-towers in Kuala-Lumpur, European Bank in Frankfurt, etc.
Even the floor of the restaurant on the top of the Eiffel tower is protected with PROMAT materials and fire protection glass, as well as on the Ostankino tower.
— So, PROMAT produces fire protection glass…
— Yes. We try to have miscellaneous and comprehensive solutions, and, of course, we need glass as it plays an important role in modern architecture.
— Are you satisfied with the work on the Russian market? Not only from the profitability standpoint, but comfort of work?
— Yes, I am happy to work here, I like to come to Russia, it’s my third time here this year – but doing business in Russia is much more difficult than in Western Europe. Why is it harder to do business? Because it is a big country, and PROMAT was a late entrée – we are only here 11 years, while in other countries we were present on the local market from the beginning of the fire protection legislation adoption, which is a little bit easier.
— Has the economic situation in Russia impacted the turnover and the revenue of the company for the last two years?
— Yes. First – the crisis, secondly we had the embargo at both sides, so that we were actually blocked, and surely, we saw that in our financial figures.
— But after any decline there is always growth. Is the company ready to meet the growing demand for fire protection materials with the construction volumes growth? Are you ready to supply the market with the materials?
— Yes, we are ready. And it’s good to have crisis from time to time, because then you see again the challenges, you are not spoiled – you do realize that the business is not coming automatically, and it makes you ready for an increase.
— Mr Spillemaeckers, I’d like to ask you a personal question. What do you like doing in your free time, do you have some hobby?
— Usually I spend it with my family, travelling, riding a bike. That’s what I do in my free time.
— Thank you very much for the interesting conversation. We wish you success in your business!