In a notice sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in February this year, UAC of Nigeria Plc notified the exchange and other stakeholders that 3 parties had taken up significant stakes in the firm.
The 3 firms are Blakeney GP 111 Ltd, Stanbic Nominees Limited, and Themis Capital Management. While Themis Capital has just 8% of the company’s issued share capital, sources suggest that the private equity firm could have a controlling stake in the firm through other holding vehicles.
Who is Themis Capital Management?
Themis Africa Capital was co-founded by Fola Aiyesimoju and Peter Mombaur.
Fola Aiyesimoju has had stints with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, where his focus was on private equity opportunities in Africa, Ocean and Oil Holdings, a principal investment firm based in Nigeria and eight years at Standard Bank, five of which were spent leading the mergers and acquisitions advisory business in Nigeria. He was also the head Financial Advisory at Stanbic Capital. This was him in his Stanbic days. One of Fola’s major deals in his days at Stanbic was helping close the EUR120m acquisition of Fan Milk by Danone and The Abraaj Group in 2013.
Here is his profile according to the NSE
Fola is finance professional with experience spanning corporate finance, principal investing and private equity. Over the course of his career he has lived and worked in Sub-Saharan Africa’s most important economies gaining experience of the operating landscape in the region. He holds a B.Sc (Hons) degree in Estate Management from the University of Lagos, where he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence in Real estate development and finance, and earned the right to use the CFA designation in 2006. Fola is the founder of Themis Capital Management, an investment firm focused on concentrating capital and talent on high-potential opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Prior to founding Themis, he worked with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a leading global investment firm with $168 billion in assets under management. His experience also includes working with the Standard Bank Group, where he led mergers and acquisitions in Nigeria. Fola spent the early part of his career with Ocean and Oil Holdings Limited, a principal investment firm in Nigeria and ARM Investment Managers, one of Nigeria’s leading investment advisory and wealth management firms. He co-founded Foodpro Limited, a nutritional snacks business focused on edible nuts, where he currently serves as a non-executive director.
Peter Mombaur has over 15 years of experience working in Africa. First, as an Engagement Manager with McKinsey, then 7 years in Nigeria working across several industries before joining Tana Africa Capital as Co-Managing Director. He currently runs Terra Education, a San Diego based educational travel company he co-founded.
UAC and its subsidiaries are weighed down by several factors some of which the conglomerate has acknowledged in its FY 2017 conference call and investor presentation.
UAC, in December last year, embarked on a N15.3 billion rights issue. A large portion of the proceeds would be channeled to paying down the debts of several of its subsidiaries.
The subsidiaries in question also embarked on rights issues in 2017. Grand Cereals Limited embarked on a N7 billion rights issue, Livestock Feeds had a N0.750 million rights issue and UPDC also raised a N5.2 billion rights issue last year.
Prior to that, CAP Plc, one of its subsidiaries, has had to bail its sister companies through intercompany loans.
UACN Property Development Company (UPDC) has struggled with its hotel arm UPDC Hotels, which currently owes it N13.8 billion. UPDC has since put the hotel on sale.
The company plans to embark on a N20 billion bond issue to pay down its debt.
UACN has also suffered from aggressive competition in several of its core markets. Its feeds section has faced competition from Olam which recently opened its billion naira factory.
UAC Foods has also had to deal with competitors selling variants of its key products. Galafaces stiff competition from Biggie, Superbite and other variants. Gala Chin-Chin, a new product has also done poorly in the market largely due to Mini Mie, and low-cost generic variants.
Several management changes were made in January this year. Abdul Bello was appointed Group Managing Director (GMD) following the retirement of Larry Ettah from the company. Prior to his appointment, he was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Struggling subsidiaries, Portland Paints& Products Nigeria Plc and Livestock Feeds Plc, got new MDs. Damola Olusunmade was appointed MD Portland Paints and Products, while Solomon Aigbavboa was appointed MD Livestock Feeds. Prior to this, the latter was MD, MDS Logistics.
During its FY 2017 conference call, management hinted at possible spin-offs, divestment and consolidation of subsidiaries. UAC also plans to implement capital investments for animal feeds, paints and UAC Foods.
If Themis succeeds
Themis will face opposition both from shareholders and staff that would be affected by the changes.
PE firms are known for cutting waste and enhancing efficiency in portfolio companies. Actis, a private equity firm took a 20.5% stake in UACN for $25 million in 2004 and divested in 2008. Though PE firms typically don’t disclose their entry or exit prices, Actis is known to have exited at a profit.
PE firms typically exit portfolio companies by selling their stake at a premium. UACN is currently trading at 17.43, far cheaper than CAP Plc, one of its subsidiaries. Though this is commonplace and known as the conglomerate discount, if the firm is able to turn UACN and its share price around, it could witness price appreciation over time.
About UAC of Nigeria Plc.
UAC of Nigeria Plc (UACN) was established in 1943, but has been active in the Nigerian space since 1879. The company operates in the Food and Beverage, Real Estate, Paint and Logistics sectors of the economy. UACN shares closed at N17.43 on Friday’s trading session, up 2.37% year to date.