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Swiss nonprofit: Belgian tycoon Hubert Fabri’s Socfin Group allegedly shifts profits outside Africa

Bread for All claimed that the group minimizes its tax burden through the use of offshore jurisdictions.

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Illustration. ©Billionaires.Africa

Swiss non-profit Bread for All has highlighted a global annual shift of profits worth €80 billion from developing countries to low-tax jurisdictions like Switzerland. 

In a recent report, the nonprofit threw the spotlight on Socfin Group as one such company that allegedly minimizes its tax burden through the use of such jurisdictions.

Socfin Group is a Luxembourg-based holding that engages in oil palm and rubber production in Africa and Asia. It has about 400,000 hectares of concessions in 10 countries. 

It is 54-percent owned by Belgian businessman Hubert Fabri. The non-profit reported that Socfin has allegedly established its management and several subsidiaries in Switzerland for tax reasons.

It further added that a careful study of Socfin’s operations throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia demonstrated that its plantation managers appear to cut costs wherever possible, paying little for the land they lease, the tree crops they cut down, the workers they hire, and the corporate social responsibility projects that they have promised communities to implement. 

According to the report, a large percentage of its generated profits ends up in Switzerland.

“It is important to know that Liberia is not getting the maximum benefits from the extraction of its natural resources,” Chairman of Alliance for Rural Democracy Liberia Paul Larry George said.

 “Tax avoidance is part of the problem and it contributes to keeping the country poor, especially where corporations are mainly designed to make use of favorable tax regimes in other countries,” he added.

Although profit-shifting and tax avoidance are not necessarily illegal, they work against efforts to achieve global justice and shrink governments’ ability to fulfill their human rights obligations.

Socfin Group

Socfin Group was founded in 1890 by Adrien Hallet, who developed the methodical cultivation of rubber trees and palm oil in the Congo. 

With a presence in 12 African and two Asian countries, the company’s portfolio includes Agripalma (Sao Tome-et-Principe), Brabanta (Democratic Republic of Congo), LAC (Liberia), Okomu (Nigeria), PSG (Ghana), SAC (Sierra Leone), Safacam (Cameroon), SCC (Cote d’Ivoire), Socapalm (Cameroon), SOGB (Cote d’Ivoire), SPFS (Cameroon), SRC (Liberia), Socfin KCD et Coviphama (Cambodia) and Socfindo (Indonesia).

Socfin’s shareholding structure is complex and includes cross-investments between holdings. It is 54-percent owned by Fabri, while the French group Bollore owns 39 percent.

Fabri is the chairman. He also holds several positions within the group, including vice chairman of Plantations des Terres Rouges and director of Bollore, Financiere Moncey, Financiere de l’Odet, and chairman of Societe Anonyme Forestiere et Agricole, among others.

Bread for All

Bread for All is the development service of the Protestant Churches in Switzerland. It empowers people and communities in Asia, Latin America and Africa to free themselves from poverty and dependency. It also motivates citizens in the northern hemisphere to commit to a fairer world.

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African-American billionaire Oprah Winfrey files lawsuit against creators of ‘Oprahdemics’ podcast

As the “Queen of Talk,” Winfrey has built a thriving media empire that includes Harpo Productions.

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Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey, a well-known African-American billionaire and talkshow host, has filed a lawsuit against the creators of the “Oprahdemics” podcast through her company, Harpo Productions, claiming that the program misleads the public into believing she sponsored or approved it.

According to Reuters, Winfrey, the wealthiest Black woman in the United States and one of the world’s richest Black billionaires, stated that she is neither seeking profit nor damages from the creators of “Oprahdemics,” and she is not attempting to halt the podcast.

She demanded that the podcast’s name be changed because its live events dilute Harpo’s “Oprah” and “O” trademarks and that the use of the word capitalizes on the goodwill that she has spent decades building, a move she said could cause irreparable harm to Harpo’s reputation.

Many consider Winfrey, who turned her hit talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which aired for 25 years, into a media and business empire, to be an institution.

Winfrey returned to the small screen in 2020 on Apple TV+ for an interview show about COVID-19 as part of a multiyear deal with the streamer.

Since the start of the year, her net worth has declined from $2.6 billion to $2.5 billion at the time of writing this report, resulting in a total loss of $100 million for the leading businesswoman.

As the “Queen of Talk,” Winfrey has built a thriving media empire that includes Harpo Productions, which has worked on films like “The Color Purple,” “Beloved,” and “Selma.”

She also has a 25.5-percent stake in the Oprah Winfrey Network, the cable channel that she launched in 2011, and a seven-percent stake in Weight Watchers, a global company that provides weight loss and maintenance services, which is presently worth $492 million.

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These are the four African billionaires whose net worth has increased since start of 2022

Among them are Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote and Egypt’s wealthiest man Nassef Sawiris.

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Nassef Sawiris.

Only four of the 21 African businessmen on our radar with a net worth of $1 billion or more have seen their fortunes improve since the beginning of the year.

Among them are Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote and Egypt’s wealthiest man Nassef Sawiris.

The recent surge in the shares of companies in their portfolios has resulted in a combined wealth increase of nearly $2 billion for these four African billionaires since the start of the year.

According to data compiled by Billionaires.Africa, this is how they stand at the moment.

#1 Aliko Dangote

Net worth: $19.8 billion

Year-to-date wealth gains: $670 million

Nationality: Nigerian

Aliko Dangote, the chairman of Dangote Industries Limited, Africa’s most diversified manufacturing conglomerate, has seen his net worth rise by more than $670 million this year, from $19.1 billion at the start of the year to $19.8 billion at the time of writing.

The increase in his net worth can be attributed to a bump in the market value of his 86-percent stake in Dangote Cement Plc, which accounts for $9.06 billion of his $19.8-billion fortune.

Since the year began, shares in Dangote Cement, Africa’s largest cement manufacturer, have increased from N257 ($0.614) per share to N265 ($0.633) per share.

Earlier this week, the company’s share price plummeted to N241 ($0.57) per share, resulting in a staggering $863-million loss for the billionaire in a single day.

However, renewed buying interest among investors on Wednesday saw the billionaire recoup part of the wealth loss and net a year-to-date wealth gain of $670 million.

#2 Nassef Sawiris

Net worth: $7.16 billion

Year-to-date wealth gains: $670 million

Nationality: Egyptian

Egypt’s richest man Nassef Sawiris, a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family, is one of the four African billionaires who have seen significant increases in their net worth since the beginning of the year.

The leading billionaire, who serves on the boards of Adidas and OCI N.V., a global nitrogen product manufacturer and distributor, has seen his net worth rise by $659 million since the beginning of this year, from $6.5 billion to $7.16 billion at the time of writing this report.

The majority of his fortune stems from his 38.8-percent stake in the Netherlands-based OCI N.V., which is worth $2.52 billion, and his six-percent stake in Adidas, which is worth $2.13 billion.

#3 Abdul Samad Rabiu

Net worth: $5.8 billion

Year-to-date wealth gains: $400 million

Nationality: Nigerian

Thanks to the listing of BUA Foods Plc, Abdul Samad Rabiu, the founder of BUA Group, one of Africa’s fastest-growing conglomerates, has seen positive wealth gains this year.

The market value of his stake in his newly consolidated food conglomerate, which went public on Jan. 5, offset the decline in the market value of his stake in his cement business, BUA Cement Plc, as its share price fell from N71.95 ($0.17) to N58.8 ($0.14) at the time of writing this report.

His net worth has risen by $400 million since the start of the year, from $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion.

#4 Nicky Oppenheimer

Net worth: $8.20 billion

Year-to-date wealth gains: $250 million

Nationality: South African

South Africa’s second-richest man Nicky Oppenheimer, who previously ran the diamond mining firm DeBeers before selling it to Anglo-American a decade ago, has seen his wealth rise by $250 million this year, from $7.95 billion to $8.2 billion, thanks to the revaluation of his private equity investments.

Oppenheimer, who is Africa’s third-richest man and South Africa’s second-wealthiest man, invests the majority of his net worth in private equity in Africa, Asia, the United States, and Europe through London-based Stockdale Street and Johannesburg-based Tana Africa Capital.

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South African billionaire Johann Rupert-linked SEACOM partners with BT Group

Seacom is privately funded and 75 percent African-owned.

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Johann Rupert. ©Billionaires.Africa

SEACOM has announced a strategic alliance with UK telecommunications service provider BT Group as it prepares to enter the African enterprise cybersecurity market.

SEACOM is a leading pan-African telecom services provider linked to South Africa’s richest man Johann Rupert.

The partnership aligns with SEACOM’s plans to expand its portfolio of services targeting African businesses. By leveraging BT Group’s infrastructure and expertise, SEACOM hopes to secure its own infrastructure and deliver new networking and security solutions to African businesses.

“With SEACOM’s global network and local presence and BT’s global reach and expertise, we will be able to deliver a comprehensive portfolio of cloud, security, and connectivity services that are reliable, scalable, and at the cutting-edge of the industry,” Oliver Fortuin, CEO of SEACOM, said.

BT Group, which protects some of the world’s largest organizations from cyber threats through a dedicated network of security operations centers around the world, announced that SEACOM customers will gain access to BT Group’s Cloud Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) platform.

The SIEM platform provides real-time visibility and monitoring across an organization’s entire IT environment, acting as an additional layer of security to SEACOM’s existing ICT solutions.

Seacom, which bills itself as Africa’s most extensive ICT infrastructure provider, is privately funded and 75-percent African-owned, with Rupert’s investment holding Remgro owning 30 percent of the company.

South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe owns a 15-percent stake in the pan-African telecom services provider through his financial services conglomerate, Sanlam.

Jubilee Holdings, a Kenyan investment holding backed by Aga Khan IV (Shah Karim al-Husayni), increased its stake in SEACOM from 8.8 to 18.8 percent earlier this year after acquiring an additional 10-percent stake in the company.

According to Nizar Juma, chairman of Jubilee Holdings, the transaction will strengthen the company’s ability to diversify its investment priorities across major sectors of the economy.

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