HARARE, Sept. 10 (The Source) – Sociètè Industrielle Lesaffre (Lesaffre), a global leader in the manufacture of yeast and fermentation products, on Thursday officially completed the acquisition of a 60 percent stake in Zimbabwe’s Anchor Yeast, the country’s sole manufacturer of the product.
The new firm will trade as Lesaffre Zimbabwe. Anchor Holdings, which previously wholly owned the yeast business, will own 40 percent of the company.
Anchor Yeast, established in 1957, is one of Zimbabwe’s household brands. The firm, which employs close to 100 people and serves the baking, brewery and ethanol industries, came under pressure from imports from Zambia and South Africa and was badly in need of recapitalisation when the French company came knocking.
Lesaffre, a private company registered and incorporated in France, is a family owned and run business founded in the north of France in 1853 and has over 160 years of history and experience in the manufacture of yeast . The company employs 8,000 staff in more than 80 subsidiaries operating in 40 countries globally. With products sold in more than 180 countries, Lesaffre brings its global experience, reach, innovation and cutting edge technological capabilities gained from the depth of research built over more than a century.
The yeast and fermentation industry requires significant research and development capacity.
Although no figures have been provided, it is understood the transaction is worth $9 million, with $3 million of that going into the recapitalisation of the former Anchor Yeast.
The company has installed capacity to produce 7,000 tonnes of yeast annually from its Gweru plant, against 5,400 tonnes local demand, but has been operating at about 60 percent of its capacity.
Following the transaction, the operation expects to push output to 10,000 tonnes.
Speaking at the signing ceremony held at the Harare residence of the French ambassador to Zimbabwe on Thursday, Michael Nyabadza, head of new initiatives and growth at Anchor Holdings, said the transaction showed there was scope for local businesses to partner foreign capital.
“This transaction can be used as an example of the types of business partnerships that are possible in Zimbabwe. Forging local expertise and offshore investment to create sustainable partnerships where locals can participate in the growth of the mainstream economy,” Nyabadza said.
“This transaction would not have been possible without the dedication of teams from both Lesaffre and Anchor Holdings and the relentless support of The Minister of Industry and Commerce, The Minister of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment, The Minister of Finance and the French Ambassador to Zimbabwe.”
Jean-Phillippe Poulin of Lesaffre said his group was excited by the business prospects of the new Zimbabwean operation, which has set sights on becoming a leading yeast manufacturer in the SADC and COMESA regions.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, French ambassador Laurent Delahousse said the embassy, which played a key facilitatory role in the transaction, would continue to encourage more French companies to explore opportunities in Zimbabwe.
After years of a political standoff with President Robert Mugabe’s government over rights and policies, French businesses have shown a clear inclination to invest in Zimbabwe, after the country tamed its hyperinflation in 2009.
Apart from fuel giant Total, which is Zimbabwe’s largest petroleum products retailer, and Lafarge, the country’s second-largest cement manufacturer, other French investments in the country include Pan-African Energy Resources which is planning to build a 2,000 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Binga as well as lubricants retailer Motul.