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ACLE 2019 Onsite Interview : French Leather - Saudi Arabia’s leather producer proves optimistic and resilient
Véronique Saunier | 13 December 2019

 

Family run company French Leather was founded in 1984 in Toulouse, France. Under the leadership of its founder and president Roland Atik, it shifted its operations progressively to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where it became one of the major suppliers and traders of tanned skins, including sheep and goat wet blues, of the country. The entire production of the company is exported, mostly to Spain and Portugal in Europe but also to Asia including India, China, Indonesia and Japan

 

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Saudi Arabia and its neighbors have been troubled lately by persistent terrorist activity and geopolitical turmoil. However Atik is adamant that the future of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is bright. “We have been through crises before. We are used to periods of turbulence.  The economic indicators are positive. This year we expect 18 per cent growth of our turnover and the forecasts for 2020 are good,” he says. While he has not noticed any significant slowdown of business, he admits that payments are occasionally taking longer than they used to. “It forces us to become more disciplined, more down to earth and more reasonable. We try to use less intermediaries in order to generate higher margins.” 

According to analysts from Euromonitor International (EMI), the Middle East & Africa’s production turnover of tanned and dressed leather (including footwear, clothes, and accessories) was worth $4.08 billion in 2016, and is estimated to rise to $4.22 billion by 2020. According to EMI, tanned and dressed leather production in Saudi Arabia was worth $367 million in 2016.

 

 

“I cannot help but be optimistic about the years ahead,” Atik maintains.

His expectations are likely to be met, as in addition to the promising growth of the industry, a number of initiatives may open new prospects in Saudi Arabia. One of these is Vision 2030, a package of sweeping economic reforms and investments designed to diversify the Saudi economy, reduce its dependence on oil, and develop the country’s public service sectors.  

The country also hosted at the end of October 2019 the third edition of Saudi Arabia's "Davos in the Desert" which attracted 6,000 participants from 30 countries attending the three-day summit in Riyadh and which generated $20 billion in newly signed deals.

In light of its excellent commercial prospects, the company opened a new tannery in October 2017. As a trained engineer unabashed by controversy, Atik considers that demands in terms of sustainability are sometimes unreasonable. “Lawmakers are full of good intentions but some of the requirements are every so often a bit irrational,” he thinks. Nevertheless, he says the new tannery complete with the latest technology, drums and equipment complies with the all the most stringent environmental standards.

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