ECONOMY

Neochimiki chief sees fast growth continuing

The Neochimiki group, a producer and trader of specialized chemicals and detergents, has become a powerful presence in the Balkans. This is entirely due to its leader, Lavrentis Lavrentiadis. Despite his youth, Lavrentiadis is considered one of the most successful business leaders in the market, even earning the title of «Greek Entrepreneur of the Year» this year from consultants Ernst & Young. A few days ago, you were won the title «Greek Entrepreneur of the Year» in Ernst & Young’s international competition. What does this mean for you? I think it is a great honor, since this is an internationally recognized award that included Greece for the first time, joining a list of 40 other countries. It is very important that the international consultants took into account in their assessment a great number of factors and that this is not an honor based on popularity or the recognition factor with people voting for you. I should further note that it is very important that I was also chosen in the category of «Internationally Expanding Entrepreneur,» which confirms the group’s dynamic expansion in recent years. How can Neochimiki benefit from this award? The Neochimiki group has a significant international presence with commercial and industrial activities in the chemicals sector in 10 countries. Foreign institutional investors hold a 60 percent share in both Neochimiki and subsidiary Lamda detergent. So the award given to a top manager is also a reward for the foreign institutionals for deciding to invest in our companies but also for our partners abroad for their trust in us. Let us not forget that our group has been aggressively expanding over the past six years. In 2000, we made a profit of 1 million euros on turnover of 8 million, while this year we expect a profit of 40 million euros on turnover of 300 million. How did you manage to create such a quickly expanding group? We took advantage of Greece’s entry into the European Union and changes in large multinationals’ strategy. Over those years we had created the infrastructure that allowed us to become the most suitable partners for the multinationals with which we do business. We thus grew by undertaking important activities on behalf of those companies, initially in detergents and later in the wider chemicals sector. I should note here that our growth became possible due to our personnel, whose quality is Neochimiki’s real strength. And I dare say that we will continue to operate as successfully over the next few years, achieving growth rates of 10 percent in organic profits and 50 percent or more in sales. You said that Neochimiki’s founding and significant growth is a collective endeavor. What does Neochimiki mean to you, personally? I would say that it is a part of my life and a great love of mine. I like creating things and it wouldn’t be excessive to claim that creativity helped me overcome some significant personal problems. Creativity is among the best medicines for a lot of things afflicting your life. The most important is to have the vision to work as a group and to constantly improve products and services. You said that fast growth will continue. How will you achieve that? I believe many Greek companies can exploit the favorable opportunity to develop trade relations with the East. The fact that Greece is a natural gateway for Asian companies toward European markets creates great prospects. The interest the Chinese have shown in our ports is no coincidence. Our companies have created a strong logistics infrastructure and can play a significant part in moving products to Europe and, especially, the Balkans. Since we cooperate with large multinationals in processing and trading raw materials for chemical industries, we can benefit from Asian imports. What is your next step going to be? As you know, I am active in two sectors: chemicals, through the Neochimiki group, and, more recently, pharmaceuticals, through two companies I own, Veterin and Remek. Neochimiki recently acquired Interchem, which produces raw materials for paints, an activity which complements our own. More importantly, Interchem has good facilities and a port, in the Avlida area (north of Athens), next to Neochimiki’s facilities. We are bidding for two fertilizer units being privatized in Serbia. We are also looking for similar acquisitions throughout Eastern Europe and there are some interesting prospects there. As for pharmaceuticals, I believe prospects are very good. In this sector, as well, I have the backing of foreign multinationals with whom I have entered into partnerships.