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   Market Date: 30-09-2014   
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Third term: Global Action Threatens NBL

Category: General


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Third term: Global Action Threatens NBL The text message is simple, yet seems effective: “I oppose third term very strongly. To protest against the project, I will not buy or drink any product of Nigeria Breweries – Star, Gulder, Heineken, Maltina. “If you feel this way too, pass on the message to everyone in your address book”. This is the text mobile telephone subscribers have been receiving since last Thursday. And they say it is working against Nigeria Breweries (NB). Its Managing Director, Festus Odimegwu, took paid advertisements last week to extol the virtues of President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the need for him to stay on in Aso Rock. An aghast Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) had retorted that the gambit is an affront on the sensibilities of the populace. It demanded the resignation of Odimegwu or NB would risk public apathy to its products. By listing the products of NB the text message jogs the memory of recipients on the boycott of Barclays Bank in the 1970s for its involvement with the apartheid regime in South Africa. Consumer groups and student activists in Europe are said to be ready to boycott Heineken the brewer which holds controlling stakes in NB. A Nigerian student at the University of Leeds, England said in a telephone interview on Monday that activists plan to move a motion at the university’s student union seeking a boycott of Heineken products on the campus. If the threat is carried out on major campuses in the United Kingdom, analysts say it could have a negative impact on Heineken’s share prices on major international stock exchanges, reminiscent of the anti-Barclays Bank action three decades on. NB Spokesman, Edem Vindah, on Monday acknowledged receipt of the text message, but stressed that “Nigeria Breweries is purely into business and so should not be dragged into politics. The insinuations in the general public or by activists concerning … Odimegwu’s stance on the third term should not be looked at politically. “NB is into business and anything short of that should be disregarded. If the activists are complaining about Odimegwu, what have they to say about Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu among others. “I think those who are clamouring for a showdown against NB are being mischievous. I do not have anything to say about it, you can call my managing director to find out from him”. He said the text message could be part of a campaign of calumny against NB, recalling that in December, some persons sent out a “ludicrous” text claiming that they were former employees mandated by the company to poison its consumers. Analysts believe that a boycott may lead to poor sales, especially at NB’s ultra-modern Ama brewery in Enugu. At the end of its operations for year ended last December 31, NB recorded a turnover of N80.23 billion, about N6.64 billion or 9.02 per cent higher than the previous year’s N73.59 billion. Profit before tax rose from N14.42 billion or about 7 per cent to N15.45 billion, profit attributable to shareholders leapt 62 per cent from N5.08 billion in 2004 to last year’s N8.25 billion. Giving an insight into the result at a pre-annual general meeting press briefing last week, Odimegwu said: “No other manufacturing company listed on the stock exchange declares the type of profit we report. That is why we pay so much tax”. Odimegwu is seen as one of “the President’s men” in the corporate world. He does not hide his support for Obasanjo, who, to him, “is doing a good job of restoring hope for the country”. The man in the eye of the storm is also a director of Union Bank and Transnational Corporation (Transcorp). He joined NB in 1980 and was appointed to the board 14 years later. He became the MD/CEO in 1999, succeeding the more conservative Felix Ohiwerei, who was made Chairman. - independent

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