Managing Director Tony Critien features in the Malta Economic Update Oct 11, 2011
Category: General news
Malta’s leading Economic Publication, distributed with the Malta Times features an interview with Sigma Malta Managing Director, Mr. Tony Critien.
Mr. Tony Critien, Managing Director of Sigma Malta has been in the paint business for over 30 years. Under license from PPG, the world’s second largest paint company, Mr. Critien setup local factory production facilities back in 1982, imports all raw materials and manufactures a range of Sigma products locally. The company is involved in decorative, marine and protective paints. The Economic Update gets up close and personal with Mr. Critien to get an insight of the company, its operations as well as some latest decorative products while endeavoring to remain Malta’s number one paint brand.
TEU: I see a lot of empty Sigma buckets and people wearing Sigma T-shirts. Your paint seems to be a very popular brand. How did it all start?
TC: Sigma origins can be traced back to 1722 when the first paint company in the world, Pieter Schoen, was founded in Amsterdam. In 1969 the oil company Petrofina acquired three companies Pieter Schoen, Varrosieau and Vettewinkle and merged them into Sigma Coatings. Sigma is now part of the global PPG group of companies, the second largest paint company in the world.
In the 1960’s we were agents and stockists for Pieter Schoen Marine Paints. These were tough times as import licenses were hard to come by, so the only way for us to sell and market our products was to establish a local factory and start production in Malta. The factory was set up in 1982 and production started in May 1983. The bulk of our production at the time was marine products. Since then our focus has been establishing the decorative side of the business and this now accounts for the majority of our sales. With excellent customer service, a great team and exceptional products we have established Sigma as the number one paint company in Malta.
TEU: What about today. Do you still produce Marine paint?
TC. We produce a limited range of Marine paints, mainly for supply to vessels calling at the Malta Freeport for onboard maintenance. We also stock substantial quantities of dry- docking paints, some of which are produced in our factory, typically on very short notice. However, the more sophisticated products such as anti- fouling and solvent free epoxies are shipped from Belgium or Holland.
TEU: What about Industrial paints?
We produce some excellent Protective Coatings suitable for all steel structures, including fuel storage tanks, pipelines and galvanised steel. Leslie Bonnici, our in-house qualified field engineer supervises our marine and PC side of the business. We count Enemalta and Oil Tanking Malta amongst our best customers. With our protective coatings we have been able to give local fuel storage tanks a new lease of life for many years, this represented a huge saving for our customers.
TEU: I understand you have raised your prices twice this year. Has this affected your business?
TC: Raw material prices have absolutely rocketed this past year. We raised our retail prices by approximately six per cent in total. In both Europe and America, prices were increased by at least twice as much. Our sales have not been affected; our customers know that, no matter the cost, we only use the best quality raw material that ensures quality products. We purchase raw material only from approved suppliers to the PPG Group – our Licensor.
TEU: Have your competitors followed suit and increased their prices?
TC: Some have. The others will have to. It depends on the quantity of material they hold in stock, and, whether like us, they are bound to using only premium quality.
TEU: Are you due to be launching any new products shortly?
TC: Within a few weeks we will be launching two products Sigmafix Universal – a water-based rather than solvent-based Stabilising Solution, and Sigmafaçade Elastocoat, suitable for indoor and outdoor use which maintains permanent flexibility. Other interesting products due to be launched next year, which are well suited for the Maltese market include Sigmafaçade Topcoat HP, which can be applied directly to damp walls, this product uses unique materials and we expect it to be a great seller locally. We have also just launched our new website, www.sigmamalta.com where customers can get information on all our current and newly launched products.
TEU: Your industry is not exactly known to be a ‘clean’ industry. Do you, in any way, contribute towards a ‘green concept’ Malta?
TC: We certainly do. We have installed 440 solar PV panels on our roof, which generate all the energy we need at our factory. We have also renewed most of our vehicles, which now boast Euro 5 engines, adopting a sustainable environmental friendly policy.
TEU: How are your products sold and distributed?
TC: Sigma is the most widely available paint locally and sold via 168 ironmongers, this represents 98% of stores, 18 of which have in-house tinting and mixing capabilities. Our tinting machines allow you to walk in with any choice of colour, which can be mixed and supplied on the spot. For those ironmongers without tinting facilities, customers are able to order direct from our factory with a turnaround time of 24 hours. Customers are able to check the list of ironmongers on our new website via the stockist locator, which includes contact details, maps and directions.
TEU: There is a lot of residential as well as trade development going on in Malta. Do you cater for this market and how does Sigma fare?
TC: We work very closely with local developers as well as contractors who use our best selling products for a variety of applications. Leading hotel groups like the Hilton, as well as property developments like Portomaso and Tas-Selmun Residence, use our products to protect their reputation of quality as well as their investment.
TEU: How do you keep up to-date with the evolving products and the ever- changing paint industry?
TC: As licensees of the PPG Group, who are constantly innovating, we are regularly introduced to new products that are being launched into the marketplace and take part in regular conferences. I am attending, together with Leslie Bonnici, the Sigma sales conference in a few weeks, which is being held in Croatia.
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