By Ikenna Emewu
‘I am really impressed.’ These were the words of approval of Mr. Bruno Wenn repeated as many times as possible at the Beloxxi Industries biscuits factory, Agbara, Ogun State last week during his first visit to the company.
Wenn is the chairman of Europe’s largest investment bank based in Germany and with investment interests in about seven African countries and more in North America.
He had come to see for himself the fast expanding company and largest indigenous biscuits factory in Nigeria his firm invested about $85m in in August last year.
KFW-DEG had bought minority shares of the Beloxxi Industries after finding out the plans of company to go public as quoted firm in the Nigeria Stock Exchange.
All the due diligence and inspection were handled by his team members. But one year after and having seen the prospects of the investment and Beloxxi, he decided to visit himself and see how things operate at the place.
On hand to receive him at the factory was the President/CEO of Beloxxi, Obi Ezeude and other top managers of the company.
At the boardroom during his reception, he expertly rattled through inquiries on every issue about factory operation, from the minutest such as water source and quality to waste management, including ICT waste, regulation compliance and many more.
Wenn left nothing or issue to chance with his depth of experience in industrial investment. After he had satisfied himself with responses from Ezeude and other unit heads, it was time for him to see the premises and operations.
That was when he got the real impact of the wonder that goes on there. At every point – from the departmental offices to workshops, conference rooms etc, and ultimately the factory floor, he kept exclaiming ‘wow, I am really impressed.’
At the end of the tour that took over an hour, he didn’t withhold his positive impression as he congratulated Beloxxi for such outstanding factory, well organized and expertly operated.
Wenn was really excited to listen to the history of Beloxxi that came as a necessity to beat a ban on biscuits imports by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002.
The factory that started in Agidingbi, Ikeja Lagos with modest single production line eleven years ago, with a facility from the UN-EXIM Bank in a disused and dilapidated factory building that was later re-moulded has morphed into a six-production line giant. Beloxxi has very high production capacity. The quantum growth was also heightened after the foreign investment. Before November ends, Beloxxi must have rolled out an additional production line as it targets to increase the output capacity from about 40,000 to 100,000 metric tonnes of cream crackers per annum while the staff strength will grow from 2500 to 6000 workers at the end of the expansion period targeted at 2020, and with expansion from the current six lines to an expected 10 lines.
Ezeude also told Wenn that the inability to satisfy the volume of demand of the market has been a major constraint it plans to beat in the next few years.
Last year, when the recession bit so hard and deep, it had to adjust its production policy and introduce a new product called the mini crackers. Wenn who enjoyed the two variants of the products while discussing at the boardroom asked questions on the viability and survival of the products and got ready answers.
However, when told of the strides Beloxxi is making to expand further by next year and to roll out its packaging factory in Oregun, Ikeja that would produce the cartons and wraps for the biscuits, he noted that investing with Beloxxi was worth the while and gave assurance that with the way Beloxxi goes, it would not be a bad idea for the management of the KFW-DEG to consider investing more fund in the company as Ezeude told him of plans and dreams the company has but limited in efforts by finance and the economic reality of Nigeria today.
Of course, Ezeude, as a member of the Nigerian Industrial Council should know better since in addition to his operation in the sector, he has since this year been part of the core of the industrial policy formulation and implementation of the country.
The KFW-DEG chief executive also mentioned that Nigeria market has potential for foreign investment, and the plan for companies like his to invest more in Africa especially when the countries make the investment market better.