Muscat: Oman’s investment incentives, ease in doing business and global logistics connectivity make it one of the best countries to establish business, said Nicholas Barakat, chief executive officer of Octal — a leading manufacturer of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that invested over $700 million in Salalah way back in 2006. PET products are used for packaging applications.
“Oman’s rule of law, access to raw materials, talent, ease of doing business and global logistic connectivity makes it one of the best places in the world to establish a business and export from,” Barakat told the ‘Times of Oman’ in an exclusive interview.
“These were the factors that attracted Octal to set up in Oman,” he said. According to Barakat, the availability of local, bi-lingual talent also influenced Octal’s decision to establish operations in Oman.
“We saw the clear benefit and potential of Oman’s young labour force; young professionals who could be trained to a high level, and that is what we are doing today,” said Barakat. “Right now, some of the top supervisors in our factories in the United States and in Saudi Arabia are from Oman,” he noted.
Octal offers food grade polyethylene copolymer resins for carbonated water and beverages, hot fill, oil and water containers, and pharmaceutical material packaging, as well as heat set blow moulding applications and polyethylene sheets.
With support from Ithraa, Octal started operations in 2006 with an investment of more than $700 million. “Ithraa introduced us to the investment opportunities available in Oman, which aided our decision-making, and we decided to establish our facility in the Salalah Free Zone,” Barakat said.
“We import one million tonnes of raw materials and export one million tonnes of products each year,” he added.
“From Salalah, we need just 14 days to reach NewYork, 21 days to the US west coast and 7 to southern Europe, so it is a great location with excellent shipping connectivity,” Barakat explained.
Octal has created 550 jobs and more than 95per cent of its products are exported. “We use state-of-the-art technology to help us produce products at a low cost, with a minimal environmental footprint. When compared to others, we consume 65 per cent less electricity and generate significantly fewer carbon emissions to produce the same products,” he added.
Discussing the Octal workforce, Barakat remarked: “Most of our team members are from Salalah. They are young, motivated and ambitious. And they want to stay, grow and make their careers in Dhofar.”
According to Taleb Al Makhmari, Ithraa’s director general of Marketing and Media, Oman is the ideal location for businesses interested in the growing and emerging markets of the GCC, Africa and Asia.
“Octal recognised the benefits of setting up a plant in Oman and reaping the commercial benefits today. They are a global player and we are proud of what they have achieved,” added Al Makhmari.
Recently, Ithraa received a prestigious award for their excellence in investment promotion. A panel of international experts at the annual investment meeting held in Dubai recognised Ithraa’s work in attracting and helping establish Octal’s greenfield plastics project in the Salalah Free Zone.
“The annual investment meeting panel scrutinised the Ithraa-Octal case study using a strict set of criteria that included size and type of inward investment, job creation, innovation and technology transfers, exports, import substitutions, local linkages, sustainability and eco-friendliness,” explained Al Makhmari.
By receiving the award, Ithraa has demonstrated exceptional dedication to support companies, like Octal, in finding a strong business base in Oman and exporting to 140 markets worldwide.
“We were thrilled to receive this accolade, as it recognises the outstanding inward investment and export promotional work we do with our partners in government and the private sector,” said the Ithraa Director General.
“We are absolutely committed to supporting local and international businesses to succeed and the annual investment meeting award is a testament to our continued innovation to develop these relationships. Indeed, foreign capital is crucial for Oman’s future growth and we work hard to attract international investors,” added Al Makhmari.
Ithraa’s success is based on its clear international strategy with its bespoke approach to different markets and sectors, crucially supported by a range of private and public sector partners. The award underscores Oman’s outstanding business offer and further enhances its global recognition as a great place to do business and as an investment destination.
“Team Ithraa is in discussions with businesses from all over the world to set up a base here. The results of their work generate jobs and create commercial opportunities for the people of Oman. The importance of Ithraa’s work cannot be overstated. Winning a prestigious AIM award is a great honour and well deserved,” said Octal chief executive.
“Being shortlisted for an annual investment meeting award, even better, winning one, is proof to colleagues and clients that our work has been judged to be among the best in the world. It is a great morale booster for Ithraa and Oman’s business community,” added Al Makhmari.