Saudi firm hires H&K to expand horizons

NEW YORK: The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) has shipped its seven-figure PR account to Hill & Knowlton, a move that comes as the $8.9 billion chemical company embarks on a bid to demonstrate that it is neither Saudi, nor basic.

NEW YORK: The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) has shipped its seven-figure PR account to Hill & Knowlton, a move that comes as the $8.9 billion chemical company embarks on a bid to demonstrate that it is neither Saudi, nor basic.

H&K has been hired to convey to the world that SABIC's operation is a global concern, and complex in its nature.

"There's a classic PR gap between what they have achieved and how people tend to perceive them,

said Jim Cox, director of client development at H&K. Weber Shandwick Worldwide and incumbent Burson-Marsteller were among the finalists H&K edged out to win the work.

Once SABIC's purchase of DSM Petrochemicals is completed, the 26-year-old enterprise will jump from 22 to 11 on the list of the largest petrochemical makers. But "within the industry, SABIC is known as a Saudi manufacturer, and that's it,

Cox explained. "We want to raise awareness of the fact that it is looking for partners, and is interested in making more acquisitions abroad."

For the business and financial press, the pitch will be given a different slant. "The goal is to communicate that while they've got great raw-material advantages, they've also made some technological advances,

said Cox.

To help signal SABIC's sophistication, H&K recently arranged for the company's vice chairman and managing director, Mohamed Al-Mady, to be interviewed on CNBC from the floor of the Dutch stock exchange.

Seventy percent of SABIC is controlled by the Saudi government, which has been pursuing a PR strategy of its own. "One of their goals is to update the country's image,

said Qorvis principal Michael Petruzzello, who has been heading the campaign. "When people think of Saudi Arabia, they think of camels, sand dunes, and oil. But the economy has other strengths, and is growing in other areas."

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