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GE Appliances to tap Gulf construction boom

GENERAL Electric Appliances will introduce a new range of built-in kitchen appliances across the Middle East over the next three months, in an effort to capitalise on the regional construction boom.

GENERAL Electric Appliances will introduce a new range of built-in kitchen appliances across the Middle East over the next three months, in an effort to capitalise on the regional construction boom.

The appliance range, consisting of ovens, cookers and rangehoods, will be showcased to distributors and associated clients at next month’s Hometech 2006 exhibition in Dubai.

The products will be be first launched in UAE and Saudi Arabia, GE Appliances’ two biggest markets in the Middle East.

Semih Akinci, GE Consumer & Industrial Appliances’ regional manager for the Middle East and Africa, said the company aimed to tap the growing demand for European-designed kitchen appliances among Middle Eastern consumers.

“The European-style built-in appliance products are gaining ground with consumers in the region, and many of the new apartment complexes being built feature built-in appliances,” he said.

“We also foresee a great opportunity – in light of the construction boom occurring in the UAE and Saudi Arabia – to tie-in with housing developers in the region.”

Akinci said the company’s European division, based in Brussels, had worked closely with continental suppliers to develop the range.

“We currently offer an American-designed built-in appliance range in Saudi Arabia, but we feel this new range will appeal to a different sector of the market.

“Most of the products in the new range will also be physically larger than those sold in Europe to cater to the practical demands of Middle Eastern consumers. This has been the trend with most of the products we’ve released in the Middle East.”

Akinci said that Juma Al Majid, the company’s distribution partner in the UAE, would play a vital role in the initial roll-out stages.

“Juma Al Majid’s Construction and Institution Sales division will play a major role in securing business with UAE housing developers,” he said. The company also boasts nine retail outlets, which will aid our efforts at a consumer level.”

Akinci predicted that the introduction of the range would increase GE Consumer & Industrial Appliances’ Middle Eastern sales turnover by up to 25% annually.

“We compare ourselves to the high-end US brands operating in the region and from that perspective we command around 40% market share. But in Saudi we command an even greater share of the market,” he said.

“We believe the introduction of this new range will not only help us consolidate this presence but actually expand into new markets across the Middle East.”

One of these territories is Egypt, a market that Akinci describes as having major potential in terms of consumer demand for both kitchen and household appliances.

“Egypt is a challenging market for us however, due to import taxes which are in excess of 40%. There are also many local manufacturers who can sell their products at much lower prices,” he said.

“However, the Egyptian government is negotiating a free trade agreement with the US, so it’s only a matter of time before the tariffs are removed.”

Akinci stressed that GE’s reputation for premium products meant it adopted a different strategy to its competitors in the market.

“We are not seeking retail opportunities ourselves,” he said. “We leave that to our distributors. We have found that if you expand the number of channel distributors servicing individual markets it complicates business to a greater extent. Also, we are not aiming for huge sales volumes targeting the mid-market to justify our presence in the Middle East.”

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