Long reach

Dr. Rhanama of mobile crane dealer Fabexi describes how tight supply and high demand leads the firm to stretch around the world.

THE FUTURE: China could become the dominant force in the market
THE FUTURE: China could become the dominant force in the market

Dr. Rhanama of mobile crane dealer Fabexi describes how tight supply and high demand leads the firm to stretch around the world.

Many firms in the region deal in a variety of areas, with machinery dealers often delving in to contracting and even trying their hands at development.

However, one firm has stayed away from this model, preferring to specialise in just one equipment vertical.

"Here in Dubai there are many tower cranes, but we do mobile cranes, rough terrain, tracked, all this" said Dr. Rahnama, MD, Fabexi Trading.

Staying in the one area has thrown up some challenges though. As widely reported in this magazine, mobile cranes of any weight and type are probably the most sought-after equipment sector.

"Two years before, we could find forty machines in one go, but now we get only two or three cranes and they come from all over" he explained.

Traditionally, Japan has been a good hunting ground for used cranes, but according to Rahnama this is no longer the case: "You can find Japanese cranes in some other country. Now, there are a lot of ex-Japan cranes in China, for projects such as the Olympics."

The Asia-Pacific region also used to be a popular area for machine-hunters, but again, the machinery globe has changed.

"From Australia the price is very high, I believe because they have so many projects there at the moment. So the price is not competitive. You can't just go to a country and expect to get a lot of machines. You have to get one here, and one there"

Even if a client agrees to sell a crane or fleet in principle, there are occasionally problems in practice. One contact had agreed to supply Fabexi with some Leibherr units, as his company were upgrading to brand new units. Unfortunately, the client couldn't keep his end of the deal.

"When I asked why, he said it was replacing it with a new machine, but the manufacturer wouldn't release it until he had given them used machine in return." Rahnama said.

Short supply, means the price has been increasing, particularly for Japanese units, so popular in the region, thanks to their ready parts supply.

"I sold a rough terrain Tadano, fifty tonne, two years ago for about US $105,000. About six months ago one of my customers asked me if I wanted to buy it back, only this time for US $250,000!" he laughed.

Despite these problems, Fabexi always manage to keep a large supply in its Jebel Ali yard, ready for dispatch anywhere in the world. Interestingly, the amount of machines either coming from, or going to the local area is fairly marginal.

"Dubai is a special market, you can't compare it to anywhere else," Dr. Rahnama explained philosophically.

Like most of the world, the company is gearing up for business in India and China. New machines can be sourced from China, with Sany, a relative newcomer to the mobile crane market being the brand of choice.

"Sany is not well known yet for mobile cranes, but tower cranes are really huge and the company is only five years old."

Rahanama said, adding that the machines are powered by well-proven German engines and hydraulic systems. An additional draw is that the machines are up to a third cheaper and can be delivered in months, not years.

Selling to India has its own challenges though, in contrast with most other countries, the company that offers the oldest crane usually gets the sale.

Dr. Rahnama speculates this is because when something breaks, most contractors in that region will find somebody to fabricate a spare part rather than going through a third-party service agent. Old cranes also have the advantage of being a more simple design.

"It is difficult, because if somebody from that country phones up and asks for a crane of a certain tonnage and I quote them for something made in 2005, they will phone somebody else and get the best price for something made in 1982" he explained.

Finally, the subject turned to the future. Could the Chinese become the market leaders in, say, five years?

"Yes, If they can develop good after sales service. In our business after sales and spares are very important. If the crane breaks down and I cannot receive the spare part or I have to wait for the service man I'm losing money. Time will tell."

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