Caterpillar unit aims to expand distribution in Middle East

Caterpillar Logistics Services intends to build a parts-distribution center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as part of an expansion in the region. The warehouse will allow the company to increase after-sale support, said Chairman and President Steve Larson. ArabianSupplyChain.com (Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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U.S. Plans for Green Exports and thoughts on how to create renewable corps of U.S. Exporters

My friend, colleague and renewable expert extraordinaire Clifford Aron of GreenMax Capital Advisors brought this article to my attention. It finally appears that U.S. Government is serious about focusing on developing systematic national infrastructure for exports in targeted industry segments. Renewable Energy is a very hot sector, which is developing globally and U.S. companies have a terrific shot of winning or at least placing in the race for leadership. I applaud the early efforts and strategic initiatives of President Obama’s Administration, as they are vital in creating the background setting for sustained success of U.S. companies, both large and small. Yet, it is important to recognize that policies and funding availability alone do not insure success. Education and enablement of the exporters are needed if policies are to succeed.

Although we have many companies who export out of the U.S., exporting is not as ingrained in our business culture, as it is for instance in some European or Asian countries. Also, in a developing, and more traditionally European sector such as renewable energy, U.S, companies do not enjoy as great of a competitive advantage as they do in more mature industries such as healthcare, aviation, or agriculture. Thus again, better educational outreach, supportive government policies and simplified financing would allow U.S. Exporters to be more competitive.

U.S. Government, banks and a number of NGOs, conduct seminars and events on how to develop bankable projects, inform on available programs and help process insurance and financing applications. These are all vital steps addressing specific needs of exporters. Yet the educational outreach seems to be missing in-depth training, which would allow U.S. exporters to develop an international mentality, enable them to truly assess their competitive position and prepare them to better compete globally. Another important element for developing a cadre of successful exporters would be funding the development of a screening/selection system, which would only allow the most well developed exporters(regardless of their size) to compete for export funding. This type of a system is no different than those instituted in professional sports leagues where athletes rise through the farm systems and selection process is ongoing, or incubator frameworks deployed by venture capitalists to screen and develop companies before letting them go to markets. Yet nothing like this exists in exporting. Anyone, after reading an article such as the one below, can go and seek to apply for funding to export. This is often done without realization of requirements and complexities associated with such process. Such inefficient approach also needlessly taxes government resources forcing countless hours wasted in explaining programs to potential applicants who have no business being there in the first place. Thus a system of exporter certification and continuing education administered by specially qualified for-profit and non-profit entities would be an effective tool in developing a strong and effective long-term cadre of exporters in every sector including the renewable energy. (You will be able to read more on my thoughts for such centers in the upcoming issues of Fluent In Foreign. Now please enjoy the article below)

US Plans for Green Exports
reprinted from the RenewableEnergyWorld.com
By Elisa Wood, Contributor | February 24, 2011
For the first time the US is attempting to build an export market for renewable energy. Will it succeed?
Washington, D.C., United States – When it comes to exporting green energy, talk tends to centre on whether or not the US can compete with China. But that has little bearing on the international business activity of California-based Greenhouse Holdings, which builds eco-friendly infrastructure.

As a first order of business, the export initiative intends to make sense of the vast amounts of information available about renewable energy development worldwide and to identify countries that offer a high potential return for U.S. technologies. The research will move beyond pinpointing hot markets, and instead try to define exactly where U.S. products can succeed.

With employees that are military and security experts, the company brings solar and other forms of sustainable energy to denied areas, places where little or no energy infrastructure now exists. ‘We’ve found a niche,’ said John Galt, the company’s executive chairman and founder. ‘For us it is not China, but more like Africa, where they need rapidly deployable energy alternatives.’

It is such niches, both large and small, that the Obama administration hopes to ferret out as part of a new strategy to increase U.S. exports of renewable energy. Released in December, the plan includes 23 commitments from eight government agencies to help U.S. companies find opportunities and overcome trade barriers. It is part of a broader Obama goal to double U.S. exports in five years.

‘I love it. I think it was just the thing that was needed,’ said Galt. ‘This policy is going to help companies like ours that have a different segment of the market.’

The Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), an interagency group chaired by the US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, pegs U.S. renewable energy product exports at US$2 billion in 2009, up from $1.3 billion two years earlier. These are conservative estimates based only on scant data now available on U.S. clean energy exports. Still, the numbers indicate US renewable energy exports account for only a tiny fraction of the $6 trillion global energy market, of which clean energy is the fastest growing segment.

Many U.S. clean energy companies do not export, according to the report by TPCC’s working group on renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE&EE). Those companies that do tend to focus on only one or two markets. The report blames the low export levels on several factors: a lack available market research, a shortage of manufacturing capacity, unfamiliarity with export logistics, risk aversion to foreign markets, lack of links to foreign partners or buyers, currency fluctuations, and financing snags abroad.

Still, export opportunities appear to be considerable. Together with efficiency, renewable energy received $162 billion in private sector investment globally in 2009, a figure that U..S officials expect to climb as economic conditions improve. Stimulus bills accounted for another $183 billion investment worldwide in the same year.

To help U.S. companies capture rich green energy markets, the government plans to offer new trade missions, financing products, market research and other services. (See sidebar, below) ‘We will identify markets that need to be developed, where demand needs to be created for the technologies that U.S. companies can provide,’ said Adam O’Malley, the director of the Office of Energy and Environment in the International Trade Administration (ITA).

The export initiative creates no new programmes or policies, but instead coordinates and ramps up existing agencies that offer assistance. Therefore, the programme does not require action by Congress, a definite plus given the legislative body’s typically slow pace on energy policy.

Solar development expertise is one key area on which the US could capitalise (Source: Greenhouse Holdings)

As a first order of business, the export initiative intends to make sense of the vast amounts of information available about renewable energy development worldwide and to identify countries that offer a high potential return for U.S. technologies. The research will move beyond pinpointing hot markets, and instead try to define exactly where U.S. products can succeed. In some cases, the countries have no market yet for renewable energy, but offer great potential, if they receive help in developing policy and regulation.

The ITA also points out that hot markets — nations that are expanding renewable energy rapidly — are not necessarily good export targets. There may be burdensome regulation or strict protectionist policies, such as high tariffs or ‘content requirements’ mandating a large percentage of goods be produced within their borders. Transporting the product from the US might prove too costly or too difficult. Or the nation may offer little protection of intellectual property rights, a problem for all companies but especially smaller enterprises that may have their entire business plan secured against a patent.

Where’s the Money?

Another major barrier is lack of easily accessed financing, a problem Greenhouse Holdings’ Galt says stymies him abroad. ‘You’ve got this great project, and you’ve got a company or country ready to sign on the dotted line, but financing is the question,’ he said. ‘There needs to be assistance in how to obtain financing.’

The ITA says that government recognises this problem. U.S. companies find themselves delayed by the inexperience of foreign banks and regulators in assessing renewable energy technologies, especially if they are new and unfamiliar. Further, U.S. companies must compete against firms that arrive with greater financial support from home.

As a result, the new export strategy will place a high priority on finding ways to increase financing and to streamline the application process. These new commitments will build on financing already available through the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

The USTDA already has increased its funding for renewables and energy efficiency from 23% of programme funds in 2009 to 50% in 2010, a commitment it intends to continue. Money is being channelled towards developing and middle-income countries.

In addition, both Ex-Im Bank and OPIC will unveil new financing products and streamlined procedures to obtain funds. OPIC is focusing on private equity funding to make risk capital available to green energy companies, and creating opportunities to lease US-made equipment to remove upfront costs to purchasers. Ex-Im already has created what ITA describes as a highly effective programme called Solar Express, which fast-tracks the approvals of solar transactions valued at $3 – 10 million. Ex-Im says that it can process a Solar Express application in 60 days. The programme offers both direct loans and guarantees with terms that can extend out to 18 years.

Indeed, while the U.S. exports many clean energy technologies, it is solar energy that has proven its mettle so far in the international marketplace. The Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research took a close look at solar exports in 2009 and found the US to be a significant net exporter with PV-related imports of $1.6 billion and exports of $2.3 billion, creating total net exports of $723 million.

Polysilicon, the primary raw material of crystalline silicon PV modules, was the largest solar product exported, accounting for $1.1 billion in sales. In fact, the US was the single largest source of polysilicon with 40% of market share internationally. The report, ‘US Solar Energy Trade 2010,’ says that US trade in the solar industry had proved to be more ‘balanced’ than in the overall economy, which had a trade deficit of $374 billion in 2009.

Beyond solar, it may be services, rather than products, that offer the greatest opportunity for US companies, given that the service sector now accounts for 70% of US GDP. ‘It would be a mistake to overlook opportunities to strengthen service exports such as architectural design of green buildings, energy audits and licensing of U.S. wind turbines,’ said the TPCC report. The government is uncertain about the current quantity of service exports.

What about China?

The trade report echoes what several renewable energy companies say: the nation needs to stabilise its domestic energy policies before it can build a strong export industry. Short-term tax credits leave manufacturers and developers wary of deep investment in the U.S. ‘Firms from countries that have provided long-term incentives and have removed barriers to commercialising and installing RE&EE technologies are challenging US companies,’ the TPCC report said.

China offers tax holidays for certain clean technology companies located in economic development zones and Malaysia gives solar manufactures a 100% tax holiday for up to 15 years.

In the U.S., when federal policy fails, state policy sometimes fills in the gap, providing stability and spurring renewable energy growth. The report says 29 states plus the District of Colombia now have renewable portfolio standards, and 18 states have public benefit funds, surcharges on utility bills specifically for clean energy.

But state policy is not always enough when U.S. companies are competing internationally. The U.S. was dealt a blow in early 2011 when solar wafer manufacturer Evergreen Solar announced it was closing its facility in Devens, Massachusetts, although it had received some $32.25 million in state grant and tax incentives. The closure cost the local area a reported 800 jobs.

‘Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the U.S. and other Western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar, we expect the U.S. will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint,’ said Evergreen Solar president and CEO Michael El-Hillow.

Production costs at the facility had steadily decreased, beating company targets and even many western manufacturers, but they still remained much higher than Chinese production costs, says El-Hillow. China dominated the wafer manufacturing market in 2009, according to the SEIA/GTM Research report. Its market share was 48%, compared with the U.S.’ 3%. ‘During the month of December [2010], we experienced a 10% decrease in average selling prices from the beginning of the fourth quarter. As industry selling prices continue their rapid declines into 2011, panel manufacturing in Devens, either fully or partially, is no longer economically feasible,’ said El-Hillow.

Despite the U.S.’ problem competing with China’s low manufacturing costs, it remains a strong market for U.S. green energy products and services. ‘China certainly presents tremendous opportunity and a variety of challenges,’ said ITA’s O’Malley.

Through the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the two nations have made significant strides in removing trade barriers for clean energy, he said. For example, China agreed to remove local content requirements for wind turbines and their components as a result of commission efforts.

In addition, the China/US business relationship seemed to improve in January with a spate of energy deals announced as China’s President Hu Jintao visited the U.S. and met with Obama. They include Duke Energy and China-based ENN Group collaborating to help build greener cities in China and the U.S. The companies created the Future Energy Technology Demonstration Platform to exchange knowledge in a deal expected to help ENN construct China’s first smart energy city in Langfang, near Beijing.

American Electric Power also signed energy deals with two giant Chinese energy companies: China Huaneng and State Grid Corporation of China. The deal encompasses a variety of technologies, including distributed generation and smart grid energy storage. Meanwhile, Florida-based wind power developer UPC Management negotiated a deal with the China Guo Dian Corporation. The two will form ventures to develop new wind facilities up to a value of $1.5 billion.

Whether it is the vast market of China tapped by Duke and AEP, or the smaller markets found in under-developed countries that are pursued by Greenhouse Holdings, export appears to offer new opportunities for U.S. renewable energy companies. But competition is stiff, and success of the export initiative rests on the U.S. government’s ability to overcome significant trade and financing hurdles. ‘These are really the first steps being taken by the U.S. government to coordinate our efforts in this space, and there is a lot to be done,’ said ITA’s O’Malley.

Sidebar: A New Export Strategy for Renewables

Released in December 2010, the export strategy was developed through the US Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Working Group on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which includes representatives from the departments of Commerce, Energy, State, and Agriculture, as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US Trade and Development Agency, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

‘Spurring domestic clean energy innovation to meet America’s needs is only half of the picture. Empowering US business to create and deliver those new technologies to energy-hungry foreign markets is the other,’ said US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, writing in the White House blog in late December.

The strategy includes several new services to help US clean energy companies export products and services:

• The federal government launched a new online portal to provide clean energy companies with easy access to government export resources.

• The Department of Commerce committed to an increase in the number of clean energy trade and trade-policy missions.

• Government will create new foreign buyers’ guides for US RE&EE technologies.

• OPIC will invest an additional $300 million in clean energy financing in emerging markets and new financial products for subordinated debt financing and equipment leasing.

• OPIC and Ex-Im will streamline financing applications.

• The Office of the US Trade Representative will address market access barriers through a new subcommittee.

• The USDA’s Market Access Program will expand to include biomass wood pellets.

The Truth About U.S. Manufacturing

I saw this article today in the Journal and immediately wanted to share it with you as it was one of the best argued cases for continued strength of the U.S. Manufacturing base and its ability to compete long-term with foreign countries. My own experiences entirely support this view.
The Truth About U.S. Manufacturing
The average American factory worker today is responsible for more than $180,000 of annual output, triple the $60,000 in 1972.
By MARK J. PERRY This Article appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal (2/25/11) in the Opinion Section

Is American manufacturing dead? You might think so reading most of the nation’s editorial pages or watching the endless laments in the news that “nothing is made in America anymore,” and that our manufacturing jobs have vanished to China, Mexico and South Korea.

Yet the empirical evidence tells a different story—of a thriving and growing U.S. manufacturing sector, and a country that remains by far the world’s largest manufacturer.

This is a particularly sensitive topic in my hometown of Flint, Mich., where auto-plant closings have meant lost jobs and difficult transitions for the displaced. But while it’s true that the U.S. has lost more than seven million manufacturing jobs since the late 1970s, our manufacturing output has continued to expand.

International data compiled by the United Nations on global output from 1970-2009 show this success story. Excluding recession-related decreases in 2001 and 2008-09, America’s manufacturing output has continued to increase since 1970. In every year since 2004, manufacturing output has exceeded $2 trillion (in constant 2005 dollars), twice the output produced in America’s factories in the early 1970s. Taken on its own, U.S. manufacturing would rank today as the sixth largest economy in the world, just behind France and ahead of the United Kingdom, Italy and Brazil.

In 2009, the most recent full year for which international data are available, our manufacturing output was $2.155 trillion (including mining and utilities). That’s more than 45% higher than China’s, the country we’re supposedly losing ground to. Despite recent gains in China and elsewhere, the U.S. still produced more than 20% of global manufacturing output in 2009.

The truth is that America still makes a lot of stuff, and we’re making more of it than ever before. We’re merely able to do it with a fraction of the workers needed in the past.

Consider the incredible, increasing productivity of America’s manufacturing workers: The average U.S. factory worker is responsible today for more than $180,000 of annual manufacturing output, triple the $60,000 in 1972.
Increases in productivity are a direct result of capital investments in productivity-enhancing technology, such as GM’s next generation Ecotec engine.

These increases are a direct result of capital investments in productivity-enhancing technology, which last year helped boost output to record levels in industries like computers and semiconductors, medical equipment and supplies, pharmaceuticals and medicine, and oil and natural-gas equipment.

Critics view the production of more with less as a net negative—fewer auto plant jobs mean fewer paychecks, they reason. Yet technological improvement is one of the main ingredients of economic growth. It means increasing wages and a higher standard of living for workers and consumers. Displaced workers learn new skill sets, and a new generation of workers finds its skills are put to more productive use.

Our world-class agriculture sector provides a great model for how to think about the evolution of U.S. manufacturing. The U.S. produces more agricultural output today—with only 2.6% of our work force involved in farming—than we did 100 years ago, when farming jobs represented almost 40% of the labor force. Likewise, we’re able to produce twice as much manufacturing output today as in the 1970s, with about seven million fewer workers. That means yesterday’s farmhands and plant workers can become today’s computer engineers, medical doctors and financial managers.

I don’t deny that the transition to this new economy can be a rough one for displaced workers. But turning back the clock to a less efficient economy is not the answer. Instead, let’s retrain our work force to participate in this dynamic new economy—an economy that still supports America’s status as the world’s leading manufacturer.

Mr. Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, Flint, is also a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Staying the Course. Taking a long view of Foreign Direct Investment

You either don’t do it, or do it. But if you choose to do it, do it right. I am talking here about direct investment into foreign markets. As once you decide to do it, you have to commit and you cannot be scared. There may be military coupes, economic and political crises, disease pandemics, natural disasters, competitive threats, criminal threats and other very unpleasant events. Each one has to be carefully and rapidly assessed, and in some cases any of these events, or a combination of them, may force you to abandon your chosen market. More often than not, however, these events are precursors of bigger and better things and overcoming them may be a highly rewarding experience down the line.
The article below underscores a very important aspect of doing business in Emerging Markets. In-depth understanding of the situation, long-term view and ability to adjust and adapt to most extreme scenarios.

With Mideast Unrest, Foreign Investment Is Again Interrupted

BY SARA HAMDAN, The New York Times

Ahmed Ali/Associated Press
Soldiers at the stock market in Cairo. As the Egyptian revolt unfolded, 13 Arab bourses lost nearly $50 billion in value in a week.
With the global markets on the mend last fall, a private equity consortium moved to sell its 93 percent stake in the Egyptian drug maker Amoun Pharmaceutical.

In January, the consortium of American investors, including a Citigroup fund, seemed hopeful they could sign a deal for $1 billion, more than triple what they paid in 2006.

But as student protests in the country turned to revolutionary upheaval, buyers never materialized. Now, the deal is up in the air, a person with knowledge of the situation told DealBook, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

After two years in a state of paralysis, foreign investors slowly began returning to the Middle East late last year, with deal volume showing a modest uptick. But in the wake of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, deal makers in the region have once again grown cautious, concerned about economic instability and market volatility.
read more at http://nyti.ms/dQXfqk

International Trade Forum Announcement

 

Event: ACCESS 2011 International Trade Forum
Venue: Westin Galleria Houston, Texas
Date: April 26-27, 2011
Learn more/register: http://www.buyusa.gov/houston/access2011.html
Discover export opportunities and expand your company’s global reach at this International Trade Forum. U.S. Department of Commerce Senior Commercial Officers from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia regions including Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates will provide information, help you identify new export markets and develop market entry strategies. For more information, please contact Larry.Tabash@trade.gov.

 

 

How international is your company?

Upside vs.downside of doing business in emerging markets

Evaluating the risks to your business, your reputation and your well-being when pursuing international opportunities
By: Alexander Gordin. The New York Enterprise Report
February 8, 2011
President Obama has been leading the charge to increase exports as a highly effective way to boost our nation’s economy. I very much agree with this initiative and firmly believe that U.S. companies have superb potential in selling their goods and services overseas. Many foreign markets, especially those in emerging and transitioning countries, offer attractive opportunities for profit, market positioning and growth.

Yet the risks of doing business in some of those countries may far outweigh the rewards. Risk factors range from reputational and financial to health and life. It is crucial to develop a sober risk-assessment framework and view it side-by-side with possible opportunities.

Always evaluate “Upside vs. Downside.” I’ve told this to my sons for as long as I can remember and when doing business abroad, this maxim may one day save your life.

Do Not Expect Protection

I believe that we should always worry about protecting our four most valuable assets– life, health, reputation and property. Understanding the downside of every action and transaction is vital. Things are not the same abroad as they are here at home. In the U.S. you can go to court to get satisfaction, call the authorities or the police. But in many foreign countries, especially emerging markets, you are more likely to be confronted by hoodlums, crooked cops, reporters or inspectors who will try to shake you down or bend you to their will. If they don’t get their way, you could become a victim of a shooting or a beating. My advice: Be careful.

You must also try to predict the worst possible outcome of a particular deal and how it could impact your four most valuable assets. It may not always be possible to assess every risk, as in the example above, but an in-depth analysis is needed in every case.

Understand All Players and All Threats

When structuring a transaction, you must understand who the players are, who stands to lose, how much and what are you prepared to do if someone approaches you with a threat, whether veiled or explicit! Will you run, withdraw, proceed, or attack? These are serious questions that require sober and realistic assessments of your capabilities, your reputation and potential damage to your four most valuable assets, as well as your financial condition and your desire to stay in the market.

Then you need to think about this: How likely are you to succeed and reach your dreamed-about lucrative goal, or do you run the risk of being damaged in the process while the opportunity itself is uncertain? This falls into the “worst possible outcome.” Will involvement in the project place you on the wrong side of the political powers of the country you’re entering?

More cautions: How secure is your business, your person, your information? Are competitors spying on you? It happens more that you may think, especially abroad. Could you be caught in the crossfire of battling forces and be splattered in the process? What happens if the nation’s ruling party, or the senior leadership of your prospective customers changes?

Can You Walk Away?

In the movie “Heat,” actor Robert DeNiro’s character defined his strategy for survival: “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” A similar strategy should be employed when doing business abroad.

You may be asking, “Why would anyone spy on me, or have reason to harm me? I’m just a simple businessperson and my company sells basic consumer products.” You may be right, but you also may severely underestimate what’s really going on. For example, what if your competitor, a local oligarch, is selling a similar product in the country and dominates the niche, with a solid and consistent cash flow? This person would not take kindly to your intrusion into his market space, and he or she would have the resources to conduct commercial espionage, and may chose to engage in discreditation in the press, or even more sinister activities.

Do you have contingency plans? These could range from leaving the country in a hurry to having a crisis management plan, to medical evacuation insurance or having an idea of where you can borrow a few hundred bucks in case your wallet is stolen.

If your company has physical assets, invest in political risk insurance that covers expropriation, nationalization, terrorist acts, currency inconvertibility and a host of other risks. Insurance may also be available for other politically charged commercial risks when bidding on certain contracts, financing from local banks or bonding customs shipments. Such insurance may be available from Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), or private insurance companies.

You also should assess the potential rewards as they relate to the extra risk you take on. Selling your goods or services at a modest mark up, as you may do back home in the face of stiff competition, may not be worth enough if the risks are significantly higher. Even though your product or service offering should be competitively priced, you should NOT be involved in doing business abroad if you are not able to price your services to include all the risks that exist.

If you are not able to evaluate this on your own, hire professional advisors, but make sure your upside is always much greater than the downside.

Alex will be moderating The International CEO Roundtable on February 17th in Manhattan. This unique and timely CEO roundtable is designed to produce informative discussions between business leaders that operate in the international arena. Attendees will walk away with new ideas and the latest best practices from other CEOs which they can implement into their own businesses. To request an invite to this event, visit www.nyreport.com/roundtableinvite.

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