Being the new Managing Director & Chief Executing Officer, effective 1 February, Hamad Al Marar spoke to EDR On-Line about his view of the Group’s future and on the cooperation between Saudi and UAE defence industry, most of the latter being now concentrated in the EDGE Group
Having transitioned from being the President of EDGE Missiles & Weapons cluster to his new chair as MD & CEO, Hamad Al Marar explains that his Group is pursuing acquisitions aimed at pursuing those development programmes that EDGE thrives to achieve in order to reinforce UAE armed forces. “Every development programme takes time, takes people effort, risk of execution, and money, so most of our acquisitions are linked to the technologies that we’re keen to develop, in order to cut time and reduce risk,” he states, “and in many occasions that will also make products cheaper while at the same time increasing potential markets.” He also underlines that all acquisitions, and EDGE did many in recent times, are objective-driven acquisition.
How much this did and will impact on the Group financial results? “From a revenue perspective, we didn’t increase and we are still maintaining the same level. What increased in recent times is the order book, which is worth about 40 billion dirhams, some 10.8 billion US$, which means around four times the group yearly turnover,” Hamad Al Marar tells EDR On-Line.
EDGE’s three key areas of interest have been smart weapons, autonomy and electronic warfare. “When we say the word smart, this means we like to be precise and effective, and go smaller. When we talk about autonomy, or autonomous systems, we’re talking about prevention of war, prevention of insurgency, before situations can actually escalate. And EW is everything around information, and today information is very key. Everything we set in these strategies are technologies that would more or less prevent war. But if war happens, then we need to be ready and effective. The strategy won’t change, we’ll still focus on those key areas,” the new CEO explains, confirming a continuity in the Group path towards the future.
One of the key advantages of the EDGE Group towards its competitors, that emerged at IDEX 2023, is its capacity to produce high end products at costs that are a fraction of those of its competitors. How is this obtained and will it be possible to maintain that edge in the future? “All the countries, companies and organizations that we get compared to have a very rich legacy. This means years of know-how but it also often means relatively old infrastructures,” Hamad Al Marar tells, letting us understand that being EDGE and its entities newly born and modern entities with modern mentality and facilities, this gives them an advantage in terms of competitiveness to the way they produce. “Finding ways to do so much with so few pushed us to find new ways of designing, he adds, underlining how low numbers also led to find the way to repurpose part of the developed equipment for dual use. The constant orders from the UAE armed forces are another key contribution for reaching economy of scale, to be confident in the number of systems to be produced, which in the end benefit to costs as well as to the Group stability. “So, yes, I think we will be able to maintain our edge in terms of prices towards our competitors also in the future.”
The adoption of EDGE defence products by the UAE armed forces also increases the level of confidence in the Group products by potential foreign customers. “The UAE armed forces are a smart buyer, and could buy equipment from anywhere. So their choice for our products plays a big role in positioning our systems, it’s a testimony to a certain extent that they are good products,” the EDGE CEO says. This also means having the support of the UAE Ministry of Defence in the marketing of the Group products. Another key factor in succeeding on the international market, probably the most important according to Hamad Al Marar, is the fact that EDGE worked on the availability, “we try to supply with a very short lead time if no lead time at all. And that of course also helped us.”
Since the IDEX 2023 exhibition, which took place one year ago, many of the platforms unveiled one year ago have logged kilometres and flight hours in testing aimed at obtaining the certification. “The main achievement obtained since then is the integration of our Desert Stings on the TB2 UAV, from Baykar of Türkiye. And I’m sure that next year this time, at IDEX, we will showcase some new products and we will announce the first flights of some UAVs unveiled last year,” the CEO says, letting us understand that EDGE will continue to push forward to maintain . . . an edge.
Exhibiting at WDS means showcasing EDGE products in the home of a giant neighbour. “We never saw the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a competitor. I think our respective Armed Forces need different solutions. And the KSA considers things on a different scale compared to us, as they are obviously larger and have infrastructures. We actually do not see the KSA and the UAE alone, we see the Gulf Cooperation Council just like you see Europe,” Hamad Al Marar underlines. According to the CEO, if the Saudi industry is successful, this will make EDGE even more competitive, because it could utilize their supply chain. “They’re more efficient, they have a bigger industry and bigger demand,” he states adding that each one can learn from the other. “There are areas in which there is minimum overlap, and in which the two entities can profit of each other. In terms of investments in technology, that’s an area where we can probably do better, we should try finding a greater coordination. But generally speaking there are many areas of collaboration, and we can see them in this exhibition.”
The participation in WDS 2024 goes however beyond pure business. “The ultimate purpose of our participation here is for our teams and the Kingdom’s teams to get closer beyond business. The visits my teams and their teams have exchanged will bring everybody to a certain level of awareness and interest. And this will bring only positive repercussions. Our participation in the WDS for the second time shows our keenness in being part of their industry, and the way they welcomed us shows how much they want to cooperate with us. So it’s all positive,” Hamad Al Marar concludes.
Photos courtesy EDGE and P. Valpolini