In 2005, Colin Low executed a $1.5 billion sale of 19 of General Electric’s GE90-powered Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to Singapore Airlines. That same year, he was promoted to president of General Electric for Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam. Last year, Low became president of GE for Singapore, the Philippines and Cambodia and is responsible for developing company strategies in these countries via GE’s market development offices, one of which officially opened in Phnom Penh in November.
This week, on his fourth visit to Cambodia, Low spoke with The Cambodia Daily’s Stephen Kurczy about GE’s investment plan for Cambodia.
Q: Why did GE choose to open a development office in Cambodia?
A: Very simply: We’re a $173 billion company. Our target is to grow two to three times GDP growth, to have 20 percent returns on total capital and for our operating cash flow to exceed earnings growth by 10 percent. That’s our target.
In order to win over those three parameters of growth, you’ve got to grow beyond your current markets. So what do we do? We look at emerging markets.
On a global scale, GE sees huge opportunities in emerging countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, Southeast Asia—anywhere outside of Singapore you’re going to have huge opportunities.
Q: GE can invest in so many different areas. What are your primary targets here?
A: Right now we’re still at a very preliminary stage. We’re meeting with the embassies, with various commercial peoples and companies and seeing where the strategic infrastructures are.
….As the country opens up for tourism, there is tremendous opportunity—we could lease airplanes, we could provide engines, we could provide power turbines, we could provide pumps and compressors for the oil and gas industries here, we could provide the whole transmission and distribution grid network for electricity, we cannot only provide all that equipment, but we can provide health care and industrial equipment. Infrastructure, industrial and health care—these are the three primary areas where we can grow immediately. This is just from a preliminary assessment. We’re still doing our homework.
Q: If you want to grow into a $500 million company within five years, when do you need to start?
A: As in any emerging country, you know, it’s a business decision. For example, if we were to put a power plant here, say in Sihanoukville, say a 100-megawatt power plant. Once you have that kind of scale, you need technicians, you need service providers, you need engineers, you need people to support that operation. You need technical people to support that infrastructure.
Q: What constraints or hurdles might prevent GE from meeting its goals?
A: [The US is] a country of rules and regulations, which are meant to protect investors. One of the hurdles to investing in Southeast Asia is in regards to certain practices—for example, influencing a decision through corruption.
We at GE have a high standard of integrity. If we are asked to facilitate payment for a deal, we will never do it. We are going to win deals by being transparent. We are going to win based on our own merits. Based on what I hear, I think this will be a challenge. It’s a regional issue.
[Also,] resources, in terms of people. Key is finding good people that subscribe to our values and can champion our initiatives here in Cambodia—getting people who can fit into our culture. Other than that, I think we’ve got the resources to grow in this country.