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Thu 23 Dec 2010 12:00 AM

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Five & Kicking

Two of the industry’s biggest shows took place in November, although there was only one place to be if you wanted to hear big contract news. And that wasn’t Big 5 PMV.

Five & Kicking

The fact that the dates of Big 5 PMV and the biennial Bauma China always clash
in never really seemed to matter before. This year was different. Putting them up
against each other this time around only served to remind everyone how far back
the Middle East has fallen relative to China in the attentions of the
global companies.

The word to stress is relative. Big 5 was not the gut wrenchingly
uncertain fright fest that last year’s was: when Dubai had to be bailed out as its financial system
collapsed. In fact as the on-going construction in the near-by financial district
attested, and as Sheikh Mohammed stated on the first day, this was an opportunity
for Dubai, the UAE
and the rest of the GCC, to re-affirm its mission statement of being one of the
most exciting places for the construction industry to be.

A shame then that it was marginalised by many of major players
who chose to focus their attention on Bauma China instead. From a neutral’s point of view the
reasoning is understandable and it’s not just the fact that in terms of size and
visitor numbers
Bauma China is three times bigger
than its Middle East peer.

China
is the single most dominant construction market; its most buoyant and dynamic base
for manufacturing and has become the number one destination for big names looking
to expand their global manufacturing footprint. 150,000 people attended Bauma China and many of
them headed to the giant machinery on show.

Big 5, with its 20,000 (11,000 pre-registered for the PMV section)
visitors sounds small in comparison. At times during the event  felt like it too.

It didn’t help that the Big 5 PMV pavilion which is housed at
one end of the show seemed like one of the quieter areas, with through traffic slow
compared to the hustle and bustle of the tightly packed show halls near the front
of the exhibition.

However numbers only tell part of the story. At some events,
when exhibitors tell you that it is about quantity and not quality and they’ve been
pleased with the people they seen, it can seem like they are rehearsing that difficult
report meeting when they go back and have to justify their expense claims on the
back of a few contracts and pencilled IOUs. For once, that would be doing the event,
the exhibitors and those that were there spending, a massive disservice.

Of course there were a few grumblings from exhibitors displeased
with their locations but you expect that as not everyone can place themselves right
next to the front door at a show this large.

However there were a number of companies that pitched up that
will look back on this year’s event as the point they really gained traction in
the region and blew away the cobwebs of the recession.

The companies with large showcases of equipment, in particular,
came away with order books looking a lot fuller than the
previous week. For instance the Doosan range was packed into the PMV Arena,
leading to machine sales agent Bin Brook Motors celebrating the end show with forklift
and wheeloader sales.

Senior Sales Engineer Samer Al Ali, told PMV that: “We put a
lot of effort to put together an attractive stand with the biggest machines at the
show and were hopeful we would be able to attract some good business.”

“I still had to put some good sales techniques to use,” he joked.
“I told him it was a Daewoo engine, the best you could get, and offered free service,
free insurance and free delivery!”

Al Ali also said that business for Bin Brook had been buoyant
of late, including a long distance delivery to South America: “We have just completed
the sale of 52 excavators to Venezuela.
We seem to be getting interest from a lot of countries.”

Early orders

Likewise JCB took almost $2 million of
business including selling several of its new Backhoes – which had only entered
the
market a few weeks before. While its major global competitors chose to stay away, the gamble
of paying for the privilege of bringing its Dancing Digger display again after their
debut at the Big 5 last year seem to pay off.

Paul Murray, regional manager, Middle East
explained that its return was a demonstration of how important the region has become
to the company.

“This event is not just about selling,” he said. “It’s about
getting our brand out there. The Dancing Diggers, for example, had an audience of
4,000 people on the first day.
We had people from Singapore,
Japan
– it’s great for JCB as a brand.”

Considering the healthy looking balance sheets the machine makers
have been publishing lately maybe $2 million (minus
the cost of putting on a sizeable exhibition)
isn’t justifiable especially with attention straying
elsewhere, but you can’t escape the
feeling they may have lost a little momentum
in a market that is beginning to look a
lot healthier.

Market progress

There were a lot of companies that were
relatively new to the market returning this year that were happy to talk about their
progress in the market. As one exhibitor put it: “The Chinese market is not open to us,
so why not come and set up here?”

If there is any market that understands branding it is the Middle East market and placing that branding front and centre
in the major thoroughfare of the show was a statement of intent from JCB.

Are companies such as Caterpillar, Hyundai, et al, so established
and so strong in the Middle East that they don’t
see the value in showcasing their machines at Big 5?

This year’s Big 5 PMV could also be a turning point in the UAE’s
move away from a market obsessed with machine ownership.

The consensus on the show floor was that buyers are looking to
rent more and more. In itself that is not a revelation, especially in the post downturn
climate, but the fact that a few of the new exhibitors were European
rental companies chose Big 5 to announce their arrival suggests this is going to
be the trend in the next few years.

As it shakes itself down and picks it up after the downturn,
Dubai is reinventing
itelf as a trading up and staging point for any company looking to reach the wider
GCC region. It is clear from this year’s show that its reach is even further than
that with many companies revealing they were using the UAE to service business across
Asia, Africa and even South America.

When his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened
this year’s Big 5 exhibition in Dubai’s
World Trade
Centre, he said with confidence: “We
are back.”

As the show concluded, it was hard not to muse on how the industry
had changed over the past few years and how right he could be proven to be.

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