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Robert Trigaux

Why Tampa's Sykes Enterprises is watching tumult in Cairo, Middle East so closely




Wake up and good morning. Who says we're not a global economy when a Tampa-based corporation is directly affected by all the Middle East unrest? Sykes Enterprises, the call center company, indicated while announcing its earnings this week that its 200-seat call center in Cairo, Egypt, was closed "for approximately one week during the recent civil disturbances" but is now operational again. Sykes says it is prepared to re-route existing volume to call centers in other countries if conditions worsen in Egypt. The company claims more than 80 call centers scattered across 24 countries.

Stock chart above shows Sykes shares over the past year, rebounding well from lows last summer.

Sykes only opened its Cairo center in a wealthy suburb called Maadi last May when CEO Chuck Sykes explained the advantages of adding Egypt to its call center arsenal for its location in the 24-hour global call center scheme, for the quality of its English-speaking population -- and for Egypts political stability.

Said Sykes at the time:  "Establishing a beachhead in Egypt is one of many growth initiatives on tap as part of our 2010 strategic blueprint. Egypt has the best of both worlds: a large and deep pool of skilled and low cost labor that rivals the Philippines and a pivotal location, with a two hour time difference with the U.K. and one hour with France, mirroring our near shore delivery operations in Costa Rica and El Salvador serving the U.S. That coupled with a growing services industry, a stable political system and government support of the BPO industry, Egypt is emerging as a very attractive delivery option for our EMEA and Americas clients, starting with those within the technology and telecommunications verticals. Furthermore, Egypt positions us in the long-run to capitalize on the high-GDP and high-growth markets in the Gulf States for Arabic language customer support." Here's the complete May 2010 release.

None of those reasons has necessarily changed. Sykes, like any other company doing business in the Middle East, will just have to see what materializes in Egypt in a post-Hosni-Mubarak-run country.

It's been a challenging year for Sykes. Though its revenues grew thanks to an acquisition, it's been losing money. In the latest quarter ended Dec. 31, it reported a loss of nearly $17 million. And for all of 2010, its loss was $10.3 million. Here are the details.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist



[Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 7:09am]


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