Rolls-Royce lands for business to take off

David Priestley, managing director of Rolls-Royce International (Vietnam), talks to VIR’s Nguyen Hanh about how the firm has positioned itself as a market leader in Vietnam and why he is charmed by the business opportunities here.

Rolls-Royce, a world leader in aerospace, marine and energy fields, is engineering success in Vietnam.

How is Rolls-Royce Vietnam positioned in the three core sectors it is engaged in?

We opened our lead Vietnam office in Hanoi in 2008, establishing a permanent presence in the country. The acquisition of Odim in 2010 provided us with a marine offshore manufacturing operation in Ba Ria Vung Tau with 100 employees, delivering seismic equipment for the global market.

Rolls-Royce is also active in the civil aviation, marine and energy fields, with well-established relations with our prestigious Vietnamese customers, which include Cuu Long JOC, Ministry of Defence shipyards, PetroVietnam, Vinashin, Vinalines and Vietnam Airlines.

In 2015, Vietnam Airlines will be operating Trent XWB aero engines on its fleet of Airbus A350s. Vietnam is also the largest market for Roll-Royce syncrolifts, used extensively in Vietnam’s shipyards to increase efficiency and reduce drying-docking times.

The government has made the marine sector a strategic component of Vietnam’s economy. Has Rolls-Royce identified many business opportunities in this sector and has the financial distress of partners Vinashin and Vinalines caused waves for you?

The marine sector in Vietnam is hugely strategic given the 3,000 kilometre coastline and a vast number of shipyards and marine businesses. As you said the state-owned enterprises like Vinashin and Vinalines have been through a very difficult time but as time progresses, I believe the government and the leadership of these companies will seek a way to re-energise opportunities, because they are important to Vietnam’s economic recovery and economic growth going forward.

At the moment, we are still working with Vinashin and Vinalines on a number of projects. However, it’s not to the same level as we might have hoped for a few years ago. Nevertheless, there are many private shipyards in Vietnam and we are looking at them to bridge that gap.

PetroVietnam is also a huge marine business and most of this giant’s business is exploration and exploitation of oil and gas offshore. PetroVietnam’s marine requirement will become more important going forward and in deep water, Rolls Royce has unique specialist capability to fulfill its requirements.

What about energy sector opportunities?

Rolls-Royce’s technology and energy is historically centred around gases and bio-technology. Rolls Royce is seeking more success in this market, but that’s only one small element. The element we are looking to grow is diesel business. We have received many orders from diesel-engine power projects across the country and as power generation requirement grows, the opportunities for gas turbines solutions and diesel solutions will blossom. Also, Vietnam’s Civil Nuclear Programme has created exciting opportunities for Rolls-Royce.

What is the importance of Vietnam in Rolls-Royce’s international strategy for ASEAN and Asia-Pacific?

Vietnam has a golden population with 90 million people, most of whom are under 35 and a huge literacy rate of 92 per cent. It’s clear to me that Vietnam will continue to catch up with other ASEAN countries. At the moment, Vietnam might still be seen as a sleeping tiger, but that tiger will roar and we look forward to being part of it when it does.

There is only one way for Vietnam – that’s up. The question is how quick. The question is about reform, about creating the right environment, the right structure for businesses to grow and for the economy to develop.

Do you have plan to expand your seismic equipment manufacturing facility in Ba Ria Vung Tau?

Part of my role is to develop the strategy and work on how we can expand this facility. I am pleased with how it’s going. We have a very capable workforce down there and they do good work in supporting our global supply chain. But we can’t stand still, we have to look at how we can make new marine components, new marine business. But business expansion doesn’t have to be just the marine facility, it could be other aspects that Rolls-Royce is capable of.

Rolls-Royce, the UK’s Aston University and Vietnam’s University of Danang have just formed a strategic education and training partnership. What do you expect from this partnership?

Rolls-Royce has recognised that continuous investment in education is a cornerstone for our organisation. We are committed to the education sector in countries where we do business. So, I am very pleased to be part of this British Council’s initiative.

It’s clear to me that such a programme creates mutual benefits as participating businesses can access higher educated employees they need and Vietnam’s work force gets into a better position to thrive in the global workplace.

As vice chairman of the British Business Association, I will work with the association’s members to convince them to join our programme. Other companies can join in various forms and not necessarily in form of finance only. I believe supporting this project is a good opportunity for companies to show their corporate social responsibility.