As the number of Nigerians on the Forbes List of 40 African richest business people rose from eight in 2011 to 11 in the latest edition, a review of their business empires has shown that oil and gas remains the main source of revenue to most of Nigerians who made the list, reports Festus Akanbi
The list of African richest personalities released by the US-based Forbes magazine last week has expectedly drawn attention to the entrepreneurial spirit of members of the business community in the face of emerging challenges to business.
Interestingly, Nigeria, which produced eight out of the 40 richest people in Forbes list for 2011 has upped the figure, as 11 Nigerians featured in the newly released list.
However, THISDAY checks showed that apart from Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Abdulsamad Rabiu, and Hakeem Belo-Osagie, and to a little extent, Oba Otudeko who made their money exclusively through investments in manufacturing, banking and telecommunications, others, including new members of the stupendously rich Nigerians largely grew their wealth through investments in oil and gas in the period under review.
Forbes’ inaugural list of the 40 Richest People in Africa is described as a testament to the growing global importance of the continent. Fortunes are being created everywhere from South Africa clear north to Morocco and Egypt in a diverse array of industries, by companies that cater to local tastes or worldwide needs.
The combined wealth of the 40 richest is $64.9 billion – more than Thailand’s 40 richest (at $45 billion) but less than Taiwan’s (at $92.7 billion).
Poised to list his company on the elite London Stock Exchange next year, Aliko Dangote, who presided over multi-billion naira business conglomerate Dangote Group, maintained his eminent position on the list of Africa’s richest business men.
Unlike last year when he led the pack with a networth of investment put at $10.1 billion, Dangote remained unshakeable on the top of the list for the 2012 edition with an improved investment of $12 billion.
Investment analysts attributed the rising fortune of the business mogul to a number of daring investment decisions taken in the course of the year.
His flagship company, Dangote Cement, is Africa’s largest cement manufacturer, with operations in 14 African countries. In September, Dangote revealed plans to open cement plants in Myanmar and Iraq. In October, he sold his controlling stake in Dangote Flour Mills to South African consumer goods firm Tiger Brands for $190 million. Dangote, who started with trading in commodities more than three decades ago, has built a formidable business empire under the name Dangote Group, which in addition to cement owns sugar refineries, flour milling and salt processing facilities.
Although, Otunba Mike Adenuga came fifth on the list of 40 African richest people as published by Forbes, the businessman still maintained his second position in Nigeria. Last year, his investment was valued at $4,300 billion; however, he was able to up the ante this year with a networth of $4,600 billion.
The rise in fortune was linked with the rise in oil production as one of his companies, Conoil Producing, recorded an increase in production capacity.
The company, which was founded as Shell Company of Nigeria in 1927 and privatised in 2000, is one of Nigeria’s largest independent oil companies, with a production capacity of 100,000 barrels per day. His net worth has increased by $300 million over the past year on the strength of oil production
Adenuga made his first fortune at age 26 in the 1970s by distributing lace and other materials, but he hit it big when the military regime of former President Ibrahim Babangida gave him a contract to build Army barracks.
He has built a fortune in mobile telecom and oil production. He launched the Globacom mobile phone network in 2006. It has some 30 million customers in Nigeria, also operates in the Republic of Benin and recently acquired licences to start business in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Nigeria’s second richest man made a $450 million bid to purchase NITEL, the defunct government-owned telecom company, in July 2011; the purchase has not been completed.
Jim Ovia, the founder of Zenith Bank Group, one of the frontline banks in Nigeria slid from the 17th position last year to clinch 19th in the latest ranking although his investment rose from $775 million in 2011 to $825 million this year. Ovia, however, maintained his position as the third richest Nigerian, according to Forbes list for 2012.His rising investment profile was attributed to a corresponding sterling performance of Zenith Bank where he remains the largest individual shareholder.
The bank, in the course of the year has grown into West Africa’s second largest financial services provider by market capitalisation and asset base. He was required to step down as chief executive in 2009 after a 20-year stint following a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive that limits the tenure of bank chiefs to 10 years. His stake in the bank is worth about $300 million. An equally large chunk of his wealth comes from a portfolio of prime real estate in Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Ovia also owns Visafone, a telecom outfit he founded in 2007. He also owns Quantum, a private equity fund focused on Africa.
Also on the list of African richest people is Abdusamad Rabiu, a tycoon who clinched the 21st position, an improvement over last year’s performance when he came 29th.
The upward movement on the table was informed by a jump in his networth from $400 million recorded in 2011 to $675 million this year, a development attributed to the corresponding rise in revenue of the BUA Group which he heads.
The BUA Group is a conglomerate with $1.9 billion in revenues and interests in sugar refining, vegetable oil processing and flour mills. The group also operates the BUA Cement I, Nigeria’s first floating cement terminal.
Abdulsamad Rabiu, who came fourth in ranking among Nigerian richest people, learned the ropes from his father, Khalifa Isiyaku Rabiu, one of the nation’s most successful businessmen in the 1970s. He followed in his father’s footsteps, importing basic commodities like rice, sugar, and cement in the 1980s.
Alakija, who was ranked 24th on the list of Africa’s richest people, emerged as Nigeria’s richest woman with a networth of $600 million. The bulk of the fortune was drawn from oil. Alakija, who made the list for the first time, started her career in the mid 1970s as a secretary at the now-defunct International Merchant Bank of Nigeria.
In the 1980s, after studying fashion design in England, she founded Supreme Stitches, a Nigerian fashion label that catered to upscale clientele. Her biggest break came in oil. In 1993, her company Famfa Oil was awarded an oil prospecting licence which went on to become OML 127, one of the nation’s most prolific oil blocks. Famfa Oil owned a 60% stake in the block until 2000 when the Federal Government acquired a 50% interest in the block without duly compensating Alakija or her company. Famfa Oil went to court to challenge the acquisition, and in May this year, the Supreme Court reinstated the 50% stake to Famfa Oil. Chevron owns the remaining 40%.
Theophilus Danjuma, a former defence minister, occupied number 25 on Forbes list of 40 African richest people, a marginal slide from the 21st position he occupied in 2011. His networth was put at $6oo million, the same figure posted last year.
He was awarded an oil block in the 1990s. In 2006, he sold a 45% stake to Chinese oil company CNOOC for $1.75 billion. His South Atlantic Petroleum Exploration company now owns a 5% stake in the block, OML 130, one of Nigeria’s most prolific. The company is also the sole operator of a field offshore the Republic of Benin.
Another Nigerian businessman who recorded a modest rise in fortune is Oba Otudeko. His investments put at $550 million in 2011 rose marginally to $575 million this year, although the rise in fortune did not reflect in his position on the Forbes list for the current year as he slid from 24th position last year to 26th this year.
Analysts attributed the modest improvement in revenue to the relative boom in oil and gas.
He founded Honeywell Group in early 1980s. Now the $2.5 billion (sales) Nigerian conglomerate has interests in oil & gas, flour milling, real estate and marine transportation. He also owns a 14% stake in mobile phone giant Bharti Airtel’s Nigerian operations, and a stake in Radisson Blu, a sprawling oceanfront hotel in Lagos, Nigeria.
Mohammed Indimi, the founder and chairman of Oriental Energy Resources, a privately held Nigerian oil exploration and production company emerged the number 27 on the Forbes list of African richest persons.
His networth was said to have increased from $330 million in 2011 to the threshold of $550 million as value of his oil blocks climbed.
The rise in fortune was linked with its juicy oil deals in the period under review. Oriental has three projects in the offshore oil and gas industry. It shares ownership of the projects with U.K.-listed oil exploration company Afren Plc. Combined production of the three projects is 35,000 barrels per day
Another newcomer on the list is O.B. Lulu-Briggs, founder and chairman of Moni Pulo Limited, an oil exploration and Production Company occupied the 31st position on the Forbes list. Moni Pulo, whose investment was put at $500 million, was awarded its first oil block in 1992 when former president Ibrahim Babangida encouraged indigenous participation in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry. The company currently has oil blocks in Ondo, Abia and Akwa-Ibom states.
On the 37th position is Sani Bello, a former Nigerian military governor from Kano State and a one-time ambassador to Zimbabwe. With an investment of $425 million, Bello built a fortune in oil and telecom. He co-founded AMNI Petroleum, an oil exploration company with a 50% interest in the Okoro and Setu oil fields, located in shallow water offshore Nigeria. AMNI shares ownership of the Okoro field with London-listed exploration firm Afren. Bello also owns a minority stake in mobile telecom firm MTN Nigeria (a unit of South Africa-based MTN Group), where he is vice-chairman of the board.
Hakeem Belo Osagie
Belo-Osagie was named as the 40th richest African with a networth of $400 million, a little below the $450 million that placed him on the 28th position last year.
A Harvard-trained petroleum economist, Hakeem Belo-Osagie chairs telecom provider Etisalat. Through his holding company, Premium Telecommunications Holdings, he controls a 12% stake in Etisalat Nigeria. In the 1980s Belo-Osagie worked for the government in various roles including as an assistant to the presidential adviser on petroleum and energy. That was followed by a brief stint at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; in 1986 he set up petroleum consultancy CTIC. In 1998 he bought 51% of United Bank of Africa from the Nigerian government and sold it for a reported $120 million in 2004.