Lysine Khao-Levasseur – who is soon to step down as chairwoman after 30 years of driving LBL International forward – shares how the leading Cambodian construction company has played a pivotal role in shaping the Kingdom since its founding back in 1991, the challenges it has overcome and her optimism for the future.
Why did you create LBL International back in 1991? Why did you choose the construction industry, and why Cambodia?
I came back to Cambodia from France in 1991 after my family, who had returned in the 80s, told me that it was important to see the country as it was then – much different to how it was when I was growing up as a child in the 50s and 60s.
I saw that the whole country needed to be rebuilt as everything had either been destroyed or the new buildings were not at all up to standard.
In my personal network I had close friends who had a really successful construction company in the south of France called LBL Mediterrannee.
After I pitched them with the opportunity to develop their activities in Cambodia to raise standards in the country – which was reopening to the world with the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements – two months later we set up the company and LBL was founded.
While before everything else it was about having a real willingness to contribute to the development and reconstruction of the country, it was also an adventure with friends and family.
We started out as three associates, with my good friend Robert Latil and my nephew Thierry Loustau Khao, who became managing director of LBL from 1992 to 2017, and who, by the way, did extraordinary work in bringing the company to where it is today.
What have been the biggest challenges you and your company have overcome in the past 30 years?
As LBL grew with the development of Cambodia, we have also faced the crises that have affected the country.
We established our activities when the country reopened with the Paris agreements and started to grow significantly after the elections in 1993.
Then we faced a major crisis with the political instability in 1997, as all our projects had to stop and many of them didn’t resume after the events.
But with resilience and the certainty that Cambodia would develop as other countries in the region had, we managed to survive, and from 1998 and the beginning of the 2000s we started to thrive, working on a lot of projects and even expanding into Thailand.
The financial crisis in 2007-8, however, was a really big challenge for us, and so we decided to concentrate our activities to just Cambodia. Then we participated to the boom of the construction in the country until the Covid-19 pandemic affected not only our activities, but the whole country and the world.
It has been another big challenge that we have had to face – with many investors having delayed the start of projects, while others have been cancelled, which has impacted operations.
However, our history has shown us that if we manage to face a crisis, we have always been able to become stronger and grow after it.
Which of LBL’s many achievements are you most proud of?
Our biggest achievement is to have participated, really since the beginning, in bringing the highest standards and best quality to all the construction projects we have been involved in.
This could only have been done by having a really strong and loyal team that understands exactly what we expect for our clients. I am very proud that all the engineers in the country know of LBL and know they can learn a lot at our company.
Our vision since the beginning has been to bring the best quality to our projects, and we have managed to do this by having our international staff impart all of their experience to our local staff.
International experience and standards combined with Cambodia’s top experts and the best workmanship in the Kingdom is at LBL’s core.
Most of our directors are people who started as interns many years ago – they shared in our vision, and they learned and gained the best experience with us.
What is your long-term vision for the company?
I believe that LBL has everything today to perpetuate what was initiated 30 years ago, and to grow much faster and even bigger than we have in the past.
Our portfolio of 400 projects, our reputation with all clients, our loyal and expert team, our expertise and knowledge of suppliers and the market, and our organisation, mean international, regional and local developers who have a serious project will naturally work with a company like LBL.
With investors and developers who have worked in all the countries in the region developing their activities in Cambodia, LBL will be their best construction partner.
After 30 years of hard work, it is time for me to take a step back.
With our management team – led by partner and managing director Stéphane Bigorre and my son Jerome Luciani-Khao, the deputy director – who have structured and organised the company for the new perspectives to come, I am really enthusiastic about the future of LBL.