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Platinum Perspective: John Walsh, CEO of UGI Corporation

The Forum Voice sat down for a chat with John Walsh, CEO of UGI Corp.

Whose business unit, UGI International, we are proud to welcome as Platinum sponsors of this year’s WLPGA Forum and AEGPL Congress.

Firstly, though most of our readers will know UGI Corp. very well, perhaps you could tell us a bit about the history of the company?

UGI Corporation is publicly held, New York Stock Exchange listed company with businesses focused on energy marketing and distribution. We operate four distinct business units: Domestic Propane, UGI International, UGI Utilities and UGI Energy Services. UGI has a rich 130-year history as an organisation, having thrived through various business cycles, the Great Depression, World Wars and a major divestment of assets following the Public Utility Holding Company act of 1935 in the US. In 2013 UGI marked its 129th consecutive year of dividend payments and its 26th consecutive year of dividend increases. UGI Corp. entered Europe in 1999 with the acquisition of Flaga Beteiligungs Aktiengesellschaft, operating in Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Since then we have expanded organically and through acquisition to 16 countries throughout Europe.

UGI Corporation recently launched the name “UGI International”, which is in fact the official Platinum Sponsor of the event. Is this a significant development for the company, and why did you choose the name “UGI International”? 

In Europe we operate under five well-known brands: Avanti Gas in the United Kingdom, Antargaz in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, Flaga in Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, AmeriGas Polska in Poland, and Kosan Gas in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. All of these brands are well established in their specific countries and reflect our businesses focus on quality, reliability, safety and value. UGI International simply ties these brands together when speaking to larger audiences such as the World and European LP Gas Associations or UGI investors.

And what are UGI International’s goals – in both the short and long-term?

First, as in all of UGI’s business units, our highest priority is providing safe and reliable energy solutions to the customers and communities that we serve.In addition, we will strive for operational excellence throughout Europe in order to continue to provide substantial value to our stakeholders: our customers, employees, investors and local communities. We will also endeavor to expand organically in countries where we currently operate. We of course view LP Gas as the best choice for consumers outside of the natural gas grid, and also within the natural gas grid for specific applications such as motor fuel for forklifts and vehicles, road and roofing construction, and leisure activities. Finally we will continue to explore expansion opportunities through acquisitions within countries where we currently operate, and also in other EU countries where we believe we can add value.

This year’s Forum and Congress is taking place in London – the biggest city in Europe – and UGI has made significant investments in the European LP Gas market in the past few years. What sort of opportunities do you see in Europe in the coming years?

In much of Europe LP Gas is playing an increasingly important role in replacing the dirtier fuels that emit considerably more greenhouse gases and black carbon. UGI has had success in replacing these dirtier fuels with LP Gas both in Europe and in the US, and we will continue our focus in this area. This is a growth opportunity that all European and US LP Gas marketers and associations should strongly support. Additionally, in several Eastern European countries we have seen household income levels increase faster than inflation, even during the recession. These increases help make LP Gas more affordable and a logical energy choice for homeowners and businesses. Finally we are hopeful that current supply trends will continue, with more product coming into Europe from FSU countries, West Africa, the Middle East and the United States. In the medium term these trends should also help support the affordability of LP Gas in Europe.

Finally, we are obviously proud to have you on board as a Platinum sponsor for what we believe will be a fantastic event – and we look forward to having a big UGI presence in London. Why do you think other members of the LP Gas industry should join us?

To begin with, we are a niche industry with multiple players which makes it difficult for our voice to be heard. We are all aware of the challenges our industry faces and our associations allow us to speak with one voice to face these challenges. Attending the annual congress demonstrates our support for and confidence in the World, European and UK LP Gas Associations as well as our belief in and hope for the future of the LP Gas industry. Furthermore this year’s congress will be a fantastic learning opportunity. Beginning with the Global Technology Conference which will feature presentations of technologies on the cutting edge of our industry; moving on to presentations about developing markets, autogas, LP Gas supply and more; in addition there will be commercial presentations from the industry’s valued vendors as well as an extensive exhibition hall supported by our vendors showcasing a wide array of LP Gas equipment and applications. UGI International is proud to sponsor such an important event.  

John L. Walsh, CEO, UGI Corporation

John Walsh was appointed CEO of UGI Corporation on April 1, 2013. He joined UGI as president and chief operating officer in April 2005.  He is a director of UGI Corporation, UGI Utilities, Inc. and AmeriGas Propane, Inc. Previously, Mr. Walsh was the chief executive of the Industrial and Special Products Division of the BOC Group, a global industrial gases supplier, where he worked from 1986-2005. He was also an executive director of BOC, a FTSE 100 company. Mr Walsh served on the Board of NuCO2, a NASDAQ listed company, from 2001-2005 and was Board Chairman of Afrox, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed company, from 2001-2005. Mr. Walsh has been a member of the American Gas Association Board of Directors since 2005. He has served on the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia board since 2007 and was elected Chairman of the WAC board effective January 2012. Mr. Walsh graduated with a B.A. from Harvard University in 1977 and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1981.