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New Steel
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HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
New Steel has an impressive growth strategy, which Eric Lauryssen, its managing director, is extremely excited about.

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With a turnover of 77 million euros, New Steel NV, part of the Columbus Steel Group, currently has a 55 per cent market share of the engineering works in the Belgian market. An outstanding, multidisciplinary company, New Steel also performs around 90 per cent of all highway projects in Belgium. Despite such successes, the company has ambitious plans for growth, which will see it increase its market share in Belgium while expanding into neighbouring countries such as France, Holland and Luxembourg.

“I see my role as a challenge and a chance to create a fresh, innovative and novel company, while accomplishing something new in my career,” MD, Eric Lauryssen tells Construction Today Europe. “I knew when I joined New Steel that there was an opportunity to expand an already successful company’s portfolio and lead it into a new era of engineering. By broadening our offering I believe there will be increased opportunities for us both in Belgium and neighbouring markets.

“My intention is to take this company, which has over 25 years of engineering experience, and enlarge the scope of New Steel towards the European market. Our main activities now encompass cutting, bending of concrete steel, prefabrication of beams, columns, posts and silt walls, overall contracting, production and reinforced meshes, research and development of new products and consulting and advising on special armament applications.”

In many respects New Steel NV is considered to be a pioneer, none more so than in the area of special armament. Eric explains: “Special armament is what makes New Steel unique. In Belgium and other neighbouring European countries this kind of special armament enforcement is becoming more and more popular as customers move away from using asphalt. Within this specialist segment, New Steel has developed a distinctive approach, where we can guarantee a high quality service at very low cost. Indeed, everything about this approach is unique, which is important, as in this sector there is a lot of competition.”

He continues: “We want to get involved in projects at an early stage, so we can consult, advise and discuss with the client the special armament applications they might need – I suppose in this respect we are pioneers. Getting involved in a project at an early stage like this allows us to work faster, cheaper and raise the standard of quality across the whole project.”

Recognised as a leading company in its field, New Steel NV’s strength is reinforced by its associations with the Columbus Steel Group, the organisation’s parent company. Over the past few years Eric has been challenged with tying these two business segments together so that the synergies between them can be fully exploited to the benefit of the client. “Our association with Columbus Steel allows us to have an overview of the type of projects on offer within the industry,” says Eric. “It also offers increased opportunities to a company like New Steel, while enlarging the scope of work we can perform. It affords us the opportunity to change the perceptions of a typical Belgian company and move towards our clients in other European countries. Our objective is to be geared towards the European market within two years, cementing our place amongst the top companies in this sector - I believe we can make this dream become a reality.”

One of New Steel’s major project realisations is the Antwerp Ring Road. This is one of the key sections of the Flanders Region road network, and as such suffers from heavy traffic congestion and daily road traffic accidents. “This is a very special project,” adds Eric. “We delivered a cost efficient final realisation and finished this particular project three weeks ahead of schedule. We hope this new ring road, which features our unique armament technology, will help reduce congestion on busy Flanders region road network.

“This type of highway is a little more expensive but it has a much greater life expectancy – it will last up to three times longer than asphalt,” he continues. “It is also cheaper to maintain than asphalt and due to the congestion on this particular road network it was felt that asphalt could not cope with the intense demand. Our method can withstand heavy traffic loads and it has great performance, so it was the logical choice for this particular project.”

Due to the soaring frequency of highway work in previous years, it is forecast that 2006 is going to be a year of few highway projects. “This is true,” concedes Eric, “but it is only going to be one year. There are a lot of big projects on the horizon – particularly infrastructure projects. In civil works, 2006 is going to be quiet, but it is going to increase considerably towards the end of 2006. I think there will be some major projects towards the end of the year and this will continue into much of 2008 and 2009.”

He adds: “We are always looking for opportunities to grow. Acquisition has been a useful tool in getting where we are today. I think the acquisitions we have made in Belgium have helped to make us into one of the biggest companies in the domestic market. We have been acquiring companies with policies that mirror New Steel, while broadening our own capabilities. Acquisition has improved our approach towards construction works in Belgium, and we now offer a more flexible and reliable approach.

“Continuing at the pace we have done over the last few years will prove difficult, and if we are to achieve growth then we should look to acquire successful Belgian businesses. If we were to expand our business towards meeting the needs of neighbouring countries such as France, Luxembourg and Holland, then I think we could realise even more of our potential. Maybe from there we will have a platform from which we will have greater opportunities in Eastern Europe as well.”

Year-on-year New Steel NV has re-invested between five and ten per cent of its turnover into business development. The aim of such investment is to create a company that is one of the top five companies in Europe, generating around 100 million euros each year. Eric has already gone some way in achieving his goal, but there are still many challenges New Steel must face in the future. But, as Eric concludes: “Our word is our bond – the secret to our success is that we always keep our promises. With a philosophy like this we will enjoy a bright future.”  CT-E

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