FINANCE: Interesting Shifts At Zeder Group
Recent Western Cape Business News
STELLENBOSCH-based agri-business investor Zeder Investments – controlled by PSG Group – is adapting its business model to incorporate an operational angle.
This seems clear from the decision to re-deploy the likeable and well-respected Zeder CEO Antonie Jacobs as the executive chairman of seed specialists Agricol.
PSG CEO Piet Mouton (the son of PSG founder Jannie Mouton) will for now, assume Jacob’s executive responsibilities at Zeder.
Jacobs played an integral part in the sometimes difficult process of building Zeder into an agri-business vehicle, which entailed the rather envious task of buying up tightly held shares in various agri-businesses that for the most part were held in tightly knit farming communities.
Zeder is now a investment business worth over R2.5 billion with influential stakes in Pioneer Foods (via Kaap Agri Voedsel), Kaap Agri, Suidwes and Distell (via Capevin).
Perhaps it could be argued Jacobs’ work was done. Arguably he has a bigger task ahead of him in helping to shape Agricol into a diversified agri-services player with operations that span Southern Africa…and perhaps Africa.
It was only a few months ago that Zeder snatched a 90% stake in Agricol. Talk in the agri-business community is that Agricol will effectively become Zeder’s operational arm.
The shift towards a more operational focus at Zeder (and it’s worth remembering Jacobs has previously been a CEO of sizeable agri-businesses) is understandable. Dealing with investments in companies that were effectively the old co-operatives is not always easy. Famously Zeder were thwarted in their efforts to push liquor group KWV towards Pioneer Foods’ Ceres Beverages.
The KWV stake was subsequently sold at the end of 2010. As such it is probably significant that in the last few months Zeder has jettisoned a few of its smaller investments…possibly positions where Zeder felt it could no longer add value or have influence. Recently interests in MGK, OVK Bedryf and Tuinroete Agri were sold for nearly R100 million.
While the investment portfolio was being whittled down, Zeder reiterated its new operational approach with the rather unexpected announcement that it had acquired a sprawling corporate farming enterprise in Zambia.
Talk around Stellenbosch is that Zeder may be looking for similar deals in other African countries. Naturally, this is where Jacobs and Agricol could come in – set up nicely as a provider of agri-services (beyond just seeds) to various fast growing African agricultural enterprises.
This is a most interesting ploy (even by the PSG’s adventurous standards), and one that will bear careful watching throughout the remainder of this year.
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