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Arnaud Dalais-led CIEL Limited posts $10.45-million full-year profit, as earnings rebound

CIEL is a Mauritian conglomerate operating in emerging markets across Africa and Asia.

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CIEL Limited Chairman Arnaud Dalais.

Mauritius-based CIEL Limited (CIEL) has posted MUR446 million ($10.45 million) in full-year profit for the financial year ending on June 30, as earnings rebound strongly from last year.

Compared with last year’s figures, its full-year profit for the 2021 financial period rose by 121.5 percent from a MUR2.18-billion ($51.2 million) loss in 2020 to a profit of MUR446 million ($10.45 million), as group revenues remain below pre-pandemic levels.

CIEL is a Mauritian conglomerate operating in more than 10 emerging and developing economies across Africa and Asia.

The group operates in five business clusters in Mauritius, Africa and Asia through its subsidiaries, including CIEL Agro and Property, CIEL Finance, CIEL Hotels and Resorts, CIEL Textile and CIEL Healthcare.

The Mauritian multimillionaire Dalais family holds a joint controlling stake in the group, with Jean-Pierre Dalais, Marc Dalais, Arnaud Dalais and Thierry Dalais holding  governance roles.

The group revealed that cost-optimization strategies and decisive actions were taken in response to the global pandemic in early 2020, which enabled CIEL to emerge stronger and leaner from the crisis. 

Revenues of MUR17.9 billion ($420.0 million) coupled with EBITDA of MUR2.7 billion ($63.3 million) resulted in an EBITDA margin of 15.1 percent for the financial year ending June 30.

This is 0.5-percentage points higher than last year’s level (2020: 14.6 percent). The group’s EBITDA margin growth revealed that CIEL became more profitable in 2021 than during the previous year on the back of its cost-optimization strategies.

On the operational front, the group announced that its diversified portfolio delivered improved margins in all investment sectors, except for hotels and resorts, which has been severely affected by the net impact of lockdowns in Mauritius and international travel restrictions.

Considering the improvement to its financial performance and its strong capital position, the board declared an interim dividend of MUR0.05 ($0.001174) per share, relating to the financial year ending June 30.

The dividend will be paid this year on or around Oct. 29, while Arnaud Dalais, the chairman of CIEL, is expected to pocket MUR23 million ($540,600) from the dividend distribution.

East Africa

Kenyan entrepreneur Peter Njonjo’s Twiga Foods injects $10-million into new farming venture

Njonjo and Grant Brooke founded Twiga Foods in 2013.

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Kenyan entrepreneur Peter Njonjo.

Twiga Foods, a Nairobi-based Agri-tech startup led by Kenyan entrepreneur Peter Njongo, has launched a new farming subsidiary as part of its plans to expand its business model beyond supplying fresh produce and commodities through its mobile-based platform.

Njonjo and Grant Brooke founded Twiga Foods in 2013 to connect Kenyan farmers and vendors to fair, trusted and modern markets. The startup provides a complete supply chain for high-quality produce.

The coming on stream of the new farming venture, Twiga Fresh, with a $10-million initial capital injection, comes just months after Twiga Foods added sugar, salt and snacks to its branded products, which include rice, cooking oil and maize flour, to attract customers with lower prices.

The move comes nearly seven months after the Njongo-led startup announced the successful close of a $50-million Series-C round to scale operations in Kenya and neighboring countries.

Twiga Foods’ product diversification strategy will be strengthened by the arrival of the new farming venture, as it moves to attract end consumers and small shops with thin margins.

To jumpstart its operations, Twiga Fresh has leased a 650-hectare farm in Taita Taveta, Kenya, where it plans to use modern farming techniques to grow onions, tomatoes, and watermelons and increase yields.

“Twiga Fresh, in addition to our growing range of private label products, will ensure we drive growth in customer numbers and broaden basket size by offering quality produce at a discount against prevailing market prices,” Njonjo said of the new farming venture’s launch.

He added that to scale up the operations of Twiga Fresh, the new venture will be funded in the long run through debt in collaboration with development financial institutions focused on primary agriculture and food security.

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East Africa

Led by Mauritian businessman Jean Ribet, BMH rebounds from loss; earnings surge

Ribet controls a significant 3.32-percent stake in the company worth $1.71 million.

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Jean Ribet.

BMH Limited, a Mauritian investment holding company led by businessman and leading executive Jean Ribet, reported a profit of MUR316.77 million ($7.42 million) at the end of the first quarter of 2022, which ended on March 31, as revenue increased by triple digits.

The increase in earnings and revenue follows a loss of MUR673.08 million ($15.7 million) from its broad-based operations at the end of 2021, despite significant revenue growth during the period under consideration.

Ribet believes that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the 2022 results will show a positive overall performance compared to 2021.

BMH Holding operates as one of Mauritius’ leading investment holding companies, with significant equity positions in Hotelest Limited, IBL Ltd, and AfrAsia Bank Ltd. Ribet controls a significant 3.32-percent stake in the holding worth $1.71 million.

Due to strong growth across its operating segments, its financial result at the end of the first three months of 2022 improved significantly from a loss of MUR375.97 million ($8.81 million) in the first quarter of 2021 to a profit of MUR316.77 million ($7.42 million).

Its revenue increased by 256 percent in the first quarter of 2022, from MUR405.84 million ($9.51 million) to MUR1.44 billion ($33.75 million), thanks to a strong recovery in its operations following positive trading conditions from key markets.

As economic conditions remain volatile, management is cautious about the likelihood of a return to pre-pandemic levels. It goes on to say that the current geopolitical climate is bringing more global uncertainty, as well as inflationary pressures, which are negatively impacting travel and imported goods costs.

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East Africa

Elloe, an AI-powered startup led by Kenyan entrepreneur Owen Sakawa, raises $1 million in pre-seed round

Elloe is an AI-powered, conversational commerce platform.

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Owen Sakawa.

Elloe.ai, a U.S.-based conversational commerce startup led by Kenyan tech entrepreneur Owen Sakawa, has raised more than $1 million in a pre-seed round of funding led by Mad Ventures, Inc., and other unnamed investors.

Elloe was founded in 2021 by Sakawa, Abhijay Rao and Aaron Madolora as a first-of-its-kind AI-powered, conversational commerce platform that allows SMEs to buy and sell products online across messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

The $1 million raised from institutional investors will be used to expand the startup’s operations and fuel its strategic expansion plans well into 2023 and beyond, as messaging becomes the primary mode of communication for consumers and businesses.

The startup aims to capitalize on opportunities in the $35-billion conversational commerce market, which has the potential to reach $130 billion by 2025 in emerging markets, with its proprietary technology that assists small businesses in managing their digital sales and customer service through omnichannel that run on messaging apps.

Owen, Elloe’s founder and CEO, explained that the startup is honored to help businesses thrive and become more customer-centric via conversational commerce and that the $1-million capital injection it received from investors will be used to expand its local Kenyan operations as well as fuel expansion into the Philippine and Southeast Asian markets well into 2023 and beyond.

“At Elloe, we’re on a mission to help businesses better engage their customers through conversational messaging; we believe that AI-powered conversations between businesses and their customers can drive customer experiences in areas and platforms where consumers are already engaged,” he said.

Mad Ventures Group CEO Aaron Madolara stated that the venture capital firm is excited to be collaborating with Elloe to broaden the collective reach and assist businesses, particularly underserved micro-SMEs, in realizing their full potential.

He went on to say that the investment perfectly aligns with the needs of emerging-market businesses and consumers, as Mad Ventures continues to make significant progress in providing digital livelihood options to the unemployed and unbanked.

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