April 1, 2011 by James Azania
The Nigeria Bottling Company Plc is to spend N45bn over the next three years on the expansion of its 13 plants across the country, as it concludes plans to upgrade to world class standards.
NBC said three of its facilities, including the Benin, Edo State plant, were already of world class standard, while plans were underway to upgrade 10 others as part of its long-term vision for the Nigerian operations.
The Managing Director, NBC, Mr. James Lafferty, said during a press conference in Benin on Wednesday, that his management team had repositioned the plant, which was razed in 2008, to become the most modern of its kind in the whole of Africa, employing over 500 Nigerians and having a fleet size of 172 trucks and delivery vehicles.
The MD said NBC, with over 2,000 distributors across Nigeria, committed itself to helping to build family businesses instead of the direct trading stores option, which he said would not be to the advantage of smaller distributors.
Lafferty said, “The plant you are sitting on now is probably the most modern plant in Africa. We have 13 in Nigeria, out of which three are modern, 10 need upgrading; and over the next three years, we are going to invest N45bn. That is part of our investment plans for the future.
Our plan is to be world class and that’s where we want to take our business to. That is the vision and that is where we want to take our plans in Nigeria to. It shows what happens when put investment in a great country like Nigeria. We have to put in the measures and that is what NBC is doing.”
He added, “If you go today, there are many businesses distributing our products, building a business, a legacy for the family and expanding every time. We could have concentrated on direct trading but we did not, and anywhere you go, you will see the small distributor outlets and this has impacted so much on the economic power of the people.”
Lafferty, who gave a break-down of the company’s distributorship across the country, said there were over 625,000 outlets where Coca-Cola was being sold in Nigeria, adding that “out of these, over 599,000 are the small outlets because everyone cannot be Shoprite or Chicken Republic.”
He doused widely held impression that the Nigerian business environment was particularly difficult, saying other countries were no better.
He said, “There is not a challenge in Nigeria that is bad enough or worse than other places. Other places like the Philippines, where you board a bus and then a boat or in places where you have to contend with pirates are far worse. There are challenges but it’s incredibly exciting and if you decide to invest, it is usually very rewarding.”
As part of its plans for the immediate future, NBC has undertaken to install a 6.5 megawatt power plant at the Benin plant, which, from July will serve as its sole source of power.
According to the representative of ContourGlobal Solutions, Mr. Evans Igwe, the gas-powered plant will, “not only produce the power requirement but will also guarantee carbondioxide and steam requirement for factory needs.”
In his contribution, the Benin Plant Manager, Mr. David Iriabe, gave an insight into what informed the decision to upgrade the facilities.