Many would argue that Nigerian tycoon Michael J. Prest is Africa’s godfather of modern commodity trading, and they won’t be far from the truth.
In his former life, Prest, now 61, was one of the most influential commodity traders in Africa. The maverick business mogul was a top trader at global trading behemoths Phibro Energy, Vitol before serving as CEO at Marc Rich Investments, a firm owned by the legendary, albeit controversial “King of Oil,” Marc Rich.
Prest left an indelible impression on oil and gas trading by understanding and sanitizing Sub-Saharan Africa’s risk and executing legendary deals in Nigeria, Ghana, DRC, Tanzania, Sudan and Zambia.
In 1999, he established the template for oil product imports to Nigeria – notably, a template still used today – thus revolutionizing the oil trade sector.
Many of Nigeria’s top oil trading companies, such as Sahara, Ocean & Oil and MRS, did their first significant deals with him.
Through his flagship company, Petrodel, Prest dominated oil trading in Nigerian and African business circles for decades. In 2006, he was a first mover independent in oil exploration in Tanzania and Zambia, snapping up by way of competitive tender the Tanga, Latham and Kimbji in Tanzania and Block 7 exploration assets in Zambia.
While Prest is still well-known for his exploits in Africa’s oil sector, he has spread his tentacles into other ventures in recent years. His latest business ventures have seen him invest in and lead organizations that can disrupt markets – spanning natural resources, financial services and property.
Billionaires.Africa profiles five companies owned by Prest.
Petrodel Resources is the flagship company of Prest. It started as an oil trading company. According to this Reuters article, it was trading as much as 55 million barrels of crude and three million tonnes of products into and out of Sub-Saharan Africa as far back as 2010. In 2006, Petrodel was a first mover independent in oil exploration in Tanzania and Zambia, snapping up by competitive tender the Tanga, Latham and Kimbji in Tanzania and Block 7 exploration asset in Zambia. Petrodel recently made public its intention to venture into renewable energy. It is partnering with Canadian solar firm Skypower to develop utility-scale solar energy projects in Africa, Turks and Caicos, and the wider Caribbean.
Bank of New Innovation Limited (BONI Limited)
In a strategic move at the end of 2019, Prest took over the banking operations of the Bank of Nevis International Limited. By 2023, the establishment got a rebrand as BONI Limited. BONI has carved a niche for itself by offering comprehensive wealth management services to both HNI and emerging affluent global clientele. Its partnership with Afreximbank is poised to bolster trade ties between Africa and the Caribbean – both regions where Prest holds considerable sway.
Prest’s footprint extends to Zambia as the second-largest stakeholder in Investrust Bank Plc. Investrust, listed on the Lusaka Securities Exchange, is known for its custom solutions spanning retail and corporate banking, alongside digital services. Prest owns his stake indirectly through BONI Limited.
Operating as Bank of Nevis International Trust Services Inc. (BONITS), this venture offers an array of services, from citizenship by investment to trust services and corporate setups.