Africa: Bolloré Africa Logistics Group Pulls Plug on Business on the Continent
The Bolloré Africa Logistics group has confirmed the sale of its activities in Africa to Franco-Swiss shipowner MSC for a record amount of € 5.7 billion. In addition to its port activities, the group operates three railway lines on the continent. Africa has been at the base of the logistics firm’s business.
Bolloré Africa Logistics employs more than 20,000 people and has an annual turnover of €2.1 billion, 250 subsidiaries, three railway lines and a presence in forty-two ports, including the concessions of sixteen container terminals and seven Ro-Ro terminals (roll on/roll off cargo ships designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as motor vehicles). This probably reflects the astronomical offer of €5.7 billion from MSC. The exceptionally favourable economic context since the Covid-19 pandemic, with the exponential increase in prices in maritime transport and logistics, also explains the high amount.
For more than thirty-five years, Bolloré group has also been a leading player in the wood industry. It owns two logging companies, Sepca in Côte d’Ivoire and SEPBC in Cameroon. It works together with a logistics hub in Gabon but manages the bulk of its activities from Cameroon. The company exploits wood from three countries in the Congo Basin (Cameroon, Central African Republic and DR Congo) which is home to 90% of the continent’s tropical forest and is the second largest on the planet after the Amazon.
Since 2016, there have been growing tensions between the group and port authorities because the latter want to replace the temporary licences with concession agreements. Such a regime would allow the autonomous ports to impose specifications on SEPBC in terms of investments. It will also increase the number and level of royalties that the company pays to the State. A concession agreement would also give the Autonomous Port the possibility of having a mechanism for monitoring the activities of SEPBC and of having precise statistics on the volume of wood exported from the wood terminal which is not currently the case.
The group’s critics complain about “a lot of vagueness” in certain declared figures and mistrust because of corruption. The owner, Vincent Bolloré, is cited and being prosecuted in several African countries and in France. According to them these legal proceedings may be one of the reasons which have pushed the multinational to sell its African logistics activities.
However, the Bolloré group is leaving the continent with a positive financial balance sheet. It is also increasingly confronted with competition from logging companies from Asia. This competition is tilting the choices of African countries towards the latter.
Courtesy of AllAfrica – Full Article