As a precursor to the upcoming conference on the South American industrial gases business, gasworld took time out to interview the largest independent gases company in the region.

Indura is celebrating two years of full independence following the Briones’ family buy-out of the BOC 41% equity stake, in January 2007.

During an interview held in June 2008, gasworld was keen to find out how life is faring as an independent player and what, if any, impact has resulted from losing a partner such as BOC. He also mentioned the relevance of the acquisition of Cryogas in Colombia, reinforcing its leadership in the South American Gas Market.

Hernán Briones enthused, “We had a good relationship with BOC, but before BOC acquired its stake in the company we always had a strong management and full R&D capabilities. What BOC brought to us was strong managerial skills and some best practices. Since the buyback of the BOC stake, we have continued along similar lines and focused on our application strengths – particularly in the food sector.”

“Regarding gas technology applications, we consider that they have to be adopted in accordance with regional situations, starting from good experiences of more developed economies. Also, gas producing plants can be purchased from different suppliers so there is no disadvantage in being independent for this reason. Besides, royalty payments by far exceed what is required to invest in R&D in the region.”

International opportunities
“While we had some business in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, the previous relationship with BOC meant that decisions on growth were more conservative and more locally (Chilean) focused. Now, as a result of being independent, we make decisions faster and have also been able to focus on international opportunities, outside of Chile, where previously we were not able to participate, because of BOC’s presence. Our sales in these four countries have increased close to 40% in the 2008 exercise alone!”

“One of our first major international moves as an independent,” Briones continues, “has been the acquisition of Cryogas in Colombia, done by Indura at the end of April. Indura has a lot of similarities with Cryogas so its acquisition and integration has been very easy. As you know, Cryogas had sales of between $80-85m and we have plans to increase this and the lines of business – particularly in welding and cutting equipment, as well as safety equipment.”

“We believe there are a lot of opportunities in Colombia and in fact, Indura had won an on-site project with the biggest steel manufacturer company in the country before the Cryogas deal was entered into.”

On the safety equipment front, Briones also stated that in January 2008 the Indura Group acquired the remaining 33% equity in Garmendia, (a personal protection equipment manufacturer and supplier) and is now in 100% control of the company.

“This is a great company and will allow us to increase our service offer to our customers,” he explained.

$quot;We also have a trading company in China (Red Point) which provides us equipment and consumables to commercialise.$quot;

Future outlook
What about the future? What can we expect to see from Indura going forward, gasworld asks?

“Cryogas was more focused in the gas business than Indura, so the current Indura business split of gas, cutting & welding and other business will be more represented in Cryogas after our successful integration.”

“We need to complete the consolidation of the Colombian business into the Indura group of companies. We will be focusing on growth both within Chile and internationally in both gases and equipment. At the same time, we will enjoy our independence and analyse new opportunities in South America when they occur,” Briones concluded.