Most advanced economies have as their backbone great businesses that have become part and parcel of the heritage of the country and one that has come to affect the very well being of the citizens and government. Most of these businesses have their roots in the family and entrepreneurial tradition. Walmart, Ikea, Heinz, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Apple to name a few. They were all started by the vision of one or more persons and ended up as a world-class congolomerate.
Nigeria has also not lacked in having its own business built on pure family attributes. The Abiola’s, Ibru’s, Doyin’s, Dangote’s and Ibeto’s of this world come to mind. The difference however is that unlike those of the western world, most if not all of these businesses have failed to expand their might and reach beyond the shores of Nigeria. They have either fallen out of existence or grappling with ownership squabbles following the demise of their patriarch.
The reason cannot be far from the need for a diverse ownership structure that ensures continuity long before the founders have passed on. It is also because they have lacked the financial muscle that can take them far and beyond the aspirations of their founders. Incidentally, both can be achieved by simply taking the companies public, helping in attract equity investments from Nigerian both locally and in diaspora. It is no coincidence that of the lot, Dangote is probably the most popular homegrown business in Nigeria that is well known around the world. This happened when he decided to take his companies public. Today, he is the riches businessman in Africa.
It is of this view that I decided to make a list of ten companies/businesses that I one day will like to see go public. These businesses either currently affects the way one day or we live will shape the way we carry out our daily livelihood as responsible citizens of Nigeria.
Main Street Technologies – Main Street Technologies the owners of Main One Cable and began operations in 2007 pioneering the submarine cable system in West Africa. Funke Opeke a 1981 Elect Elect Graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University founded the company. Before founding the company she worked for Verizon Communications in the US and then returned to Nigeria to work for MTN and then Nitel (between 2005-2007)
After setting up the company she went on to raise about $240million (N38.4billion) from the African Finance Corporation and some Nigerian banks which they used to build the first private submarine cable system in West Africa – Main One Cable. By providing the backbone for which fast internet connectivity is run in Nigeria and West Africa the company is very well positioned to tap into the huge infrastructural gap and earning potential of the information technology industry. Soon, more funding will be required to continue its huge expansion drive and Nigerians I expect will be on the waiting lines to help out as equity providers.
ARM Group – Deji Ali formed this great Nigerian enterprise starting out in an apartment owned by his Father’s back in 1994. Today the company has over N300billion in assets under its management. The company’s interests span Real Estate, Equities, and Pensions etc. The company is also known to have pioneered the execution of Infrastructural projects based on PPP (Public Private Partnership) following the 30 year concession of the rehabilitation and maintenance of the Lekki-Epe Expressway valued at about N46.8billion.
There is far more infrastructural development to be carried out in Nigeria such as dual carriage intra state roads, railways, seaports, residential estates, shopping malls etc. All of these require huge capital, which at some point will be sought from the capital markets. ARM is very well poised to succeed in an initial public offering stemming from its track record of remarkable success, experience and expertise. A public offer is an inevitable proposition, which I surely won’t miss should it come my way.
Nairaland – Nairaland was founded in 2005 ( a year after Facebook was founded) by renowned Geek Seun Osewa. Just 7 years down the line it is Nigeria’s biggest online forum with over one million registered users to date. The website also generates millions in page views monthly and is the most visited website (owned by a Nigerian) in Nigeria ranking no 1 on Alexa Index. Only Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Youtube and Blogspot rank higher. The website makes money via advertising and just recently broke away from Google Ads, a move that enables it avoid sharing ad revenue with the likes of Google. It boast over 30million ad impressions on mobile and computers monthly, a figure that surely translates into millions in ad revenue. Whilst being a sustainable business over the years, its ability to grow revenues akin to its potential probably only depends on the appetite of the owner.
By going Public Nairaland I believe will raise enough capital to spread its reach to the millions of Nigerians. The site also has the potential to grow into a very influential network like Reddit where leaders in public and private enterprises can interact more with everyday Nigerians. Other areas such as online market listings and information gathering remain a huge untapped market for the business. With Information Gathering such as those being mined by Google and Facebook, Nairaland may someday have the largest database of personal information Nigerians all over the world. With additional capital investment in income generation techniques that can help build huge income generation potential will propel the company to someday be the Google of Nigeria. This is one business I surely will want to be part of.
Wakanow – Wakanow is an online travel agency and portal owned by Zeep Travel. Obinna Ekezie, a former NBA Basketball player, founded the company in 2008. Despite massive publicity campaigns largely funded by Mr Ekezie, the company only started making in roads when it had exclusive reseller for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. By going public, the company can raise enough capital that can be used to enhance it operations, expand its reach and take its innovative model to higher grounds. A business model like this if encouraged and well funded has the potential to create jobs and spur new smaller businesses that can feed on its massive economies of scale. An investment in travel and tourism is certainly one I can’t let pass me by.
Channels TV – If you are looking to confirm authenticity of news in Nigeria, whether it’s reporting political stories, business news, sports, metro news etc. then Channels TV is surely the place to be. Channels Television began transmission in 1995 as a private broadcaster giving viewers an alternative view from those propagated by Government media outlets. John Mommoh, a former Nigerian Television Authority Employee founded the company. The company currently makes most of its money via advertising on its outlets on TV and on Yotube.
Channels has in the last decade grown organically. Aided with a staff strength of about 200, it has gradually expanded its reach to the far corners of Nigeria and in the process reached well over 20 million people. But there is more to be achieved if it is to be compared to the likes of CNN, Sky and even SABC. I believe the next frontier for Channels is developing robust program content, spread its news reporting to regional countries and enhance breaking news ability. These require funding which inevitably may have to be sourced by going public. AIT has blazed the trail in this regard in the past but so far failed to deliver, perhaps a reminder that not all public offers yield the desired results. I believe Channels presents a different proposition going by their management style.
Sahara Oil & Gas – Back in 1996 three friends sat in corner of their clothing shop looking to close for the day. A man walked in, bought some clothes and promised to pay back the next day. He made do his promise and left a business card and the rest they say is history. Sahara Oil and Gas was born and today is a multi-billion dollar business. The company is in the business of Trading Crude Oil & refined products, Gas Marketing and marketing of LNG and LPG and off course Oil & Gas Exploration. They have over 500 employees and operate in 14 countries. Whilst Oando who before them went Public hasn’t yet fulfilled its lofty ambitions a conversion to a publicly listed enterprise will surely do no harm to their rapid growth and propel them to be one of the leading indigenous conglomerate in the country. I want to be part of this should the opportunity arise.
Silverbird Group – Silverbird has been synonymous with entertainment for over 30years in Nigeria. They started by inviting big stars of the 80’s such as Shalamar, Earth Wind and Fire, Cool and the Gang etc into Nigeria before adding Beauty Pageants to their list of businesses. Today they own one of the biggest media franchises in Nigeria with the Silverbird Television and Rhythm FM radio stations entertaining Nigerians for almost a decade. They have also expanded into brick and mortar entertainment running Silverbird Cinemas as well as shopping malls, which deliver entertainment venues to teeming Nigerians.
The sky is the limit for the Silverbird Group and for them to become the Disney of Africa must be courageous enough to diversify their capital base. Nigerian cities need a lot of Cinemas which in-turn generates massive revenue for the billion dollar entertainment industry. Silverbird has the expertise and experience to deliver this. Entertainment is big business and probably ranks fifth to Power, Health, Oil and Gas, Telecoms as the biggest business in the world. Nothing stops Nigeria from becoming a financial regional powerhouse in this aspect except funding. The music and movie industry has done very well largely without much help but to provide the windfall in cash that it potentially can generate, it will have to ride on the economies of scale which the likes of Silverbird can provide and to a larger extent Nigerians who seek an equity stake.
Jumia – Of all the businesses listed up here this probably ranks as the youngest at just under 2 years old. It also is not a novel business as well as many have come before them. But Jumia has the economic fluke most Startups need to break ground. Facebook had it over Myspace just as Amazon had over Buy.Com or Biggie over Kool G Rap etc. It’s the magic that makes a business thrive where others did not despite deploying similar business models. Most associate that with timing and luck. For a bunch of 30year olds who both set up the company building an online shopping mall wasn’t their first try.
They had done online business before and probably recognized the need for strategic marketing as well as a track record to show that revenue growth is indeed exponential in its potential. Today thanks to the over $26million in Private Equity funding their footprints is on every street corner, website banner, tv and radio ad well into the hearts and minds of Nigeria. At some point in the nearest future, early risk takers in Jumia will seek to divest and sell to stock thirsty equity investors in the stock market. Surely, I want to be part of that too.
Punch Newspaper – This is probably the oldest of the lot on my list and could very well have been replaced by the likes of Guardian and Thisday. But Punch has been around since the seventies and by far is the most popular Newspaper in Nigeria. Owned by the Aboderin’s, the news daily probably sells on average about 50,000( Dailymail sells about 1million daily) copies daily generating an estimated N7.5million in newspaper sales alone. Ad placements and PR reporting also contribute to top line revenue and by my estimates bring in another N3million daily. Apart from its print, the newspaper is also online and ranks as the third most visited website in Nigeria after Nairaland and Vanguard.
Despite its longevity the paper still has a lot to prove if it is to get close to the likes of Nytimes (US), Dailymail 9UK) and the Daily Mirror (UK). These newspapers have worldwide appeal and have leveraged on a massive network of reporters to bring in a stack of news and opinion pieces both on print and online. For a young fledging democracy, as is Nigeria, no other time in our nascent survival do we need a strong, well-funded and independent media to help political and economic growth. Print media abroad are mostly owned by large corporations for reasons probably more than just commercial interest. They also face dwindling revenues amidst increasing competition from blogs and the spread social network. But Nigeria is a different market with a lot of potential for growth as the young and emerging middle class yearn for quality and unbiased news reporting. Punch and indeed Thisday and Guardian can fill this void if only their owners shed off the lust of Kin Proprietary. By divesting part ownership Nigerians will co own a proven business model and inject needed funds that will elevate to a world-class daily expanding reporting beyond the shores of Nigeria and into West Africa.
Globacom – Globacom is the second largest GSM network in Nigeria by subscriber base. Their coming into the GSM market is renowned for crashing down prices and is also a major source of sponsorship and endorsement for the local entertainment industry. The company is owned by the Charismatic Mike Adenuga, and employs thousands of Nigerians. It is hard to determine accurately how much the company makes per annum as their results are not published (being a private company) but going by MTN’s results, the company I estimate makes over N300billion in revenue every year. But unlike their other rivals, it is not quoted on any stock exchange and is basically a family business. To ensure the business continues to operate long after its Patriarch is gone, a transition into public ownership should be a likely course of action. Globacom, I believe when they decide to go club, may just be the biggest IPO in the history of Nigeria and I should be a part of the early purchasers of its stock.
Note: The above list is in no particular order and is based on the opinion of the writer. Whilst these businesses appear great on plain eyesight, their financials when made public will surely influence the decision to invest or not should the opportunity arise.