Case study: Anitua’s secrets
The secrets to the success of Anitua, PNG’S biggest landowner company.
The recipe for success at PNG’S biggest landowner company.
The ‘Lihir Destiny’, the independence strategy for Anitua, Papua New Guinea’s largest and most successful landowner company, will continue under its new CEO, John Gethin-jones. He says key focuses are a constant review of activities, and staff development.
Originally set up in 1989 for the people of Lihir Island to participate in the Lihir Gold project, Anitua’s portfolio now includes 16 subsidiaries and employs 3500 people in 30 locations in PNG and Australia. It has become an exemplary company in managing tribal complexities.
Gethin-jones says Anitua’s founding CEO, Colin Vale, took the enterprise ‘from a bunch of companies all working individually, with no synergies or group direction, to what is now considered the most successful landowner company in PNG.’
Gethin-jones was, for the last five years, Managing Director of Anitua’s largest subsidiary, catering and camp management company NCS Holdings. He says there will be no immediate change of direction now he is in the top job.
‘We are still focused on achieving the “Lihir Destiny”— of being non-reliant on mining activities on Lihir, to ensure the future of all Lihirians.’
Gethin-jones considers the rate of return on investment (ROI) a key indicator and tries to pursue the principles of business excellence when planning.
‘As a Group, we keep a close watch on cash flow, margins, profitability—delivering value to our shareholders.
‘We consistently review our marketplace, our competitive environment and our competencies. We use a
number of matrixes to assess new business opportunities and determine top priority opportunities.
‘Most importantly, we constantly review our plans, reviewing the external environment and amending our strategic plans to suit.’
The board of Anitua is made up of one representative from each of the six main clans on Lihir Island.
‘They are involved in assessing new business opportunities and reviewing current businesses.’
Anitua has three-year strategic and business improvement plans for each of its 16 businesses, all sitting under a master three-year strategic plan for the group.
He admits managing landowners and their expectations can sometimes be ‘tricky’ but says it is something that the group prides itself on.
‘Our senior managers are all culturally sensitive and experienced in managing and delivering on landowner expectations.’ He says Vale was exceptional in his ability to work well with landowners, adding: ‘It is something that I hope to be able to replicate.’
He says another area ‘in which we probably lead the country’ is success at partnering with other landowner groups on commercial terms.
‘NCS, our camp and catering company, has developed a number of highly successful JVS [joint ventures] with small landowner companies, enabling them to participate in local resource projects.
‘We share our expertise to benefit landowner groups across the country, including at Ramu Nickel and Hidden Valley.’
‘It sounds clichéd, but staff really are our most important asset,’ he says. Half the staff at NCS are women. They receive extensive in-house training, complemented by externally provided training programs.
A founding member of the BCFW (Business Coalition for Women), Anitua has had a ‘Women in Leadership’ training program. One female staff member has been promoted to Group HR Manager with NCS, while another is now Group Safety Manager.
‘Both great achievements, and testament to our commitment to developing staff from within,’ says Gethin-jones.
‘Being a landowner company doesn’t affect the way in which we view our competitors. We respect them and ensure we know our competitors as well as we can, with a view to obtaining our own competitive advantages in each of our companies.’
Gethin-jones admits the downturn in the PNG economy, in particular the resources sector, has certainly made things tougher for the Group.
‘We have had to focus on costs and cash flow. I find that hard times sometimes bring out the best in an organisation. You have to be more creative, be disruptive in your thinking and look for new niches, look for new business opportunities.
‘We, as a group, have been heavily reliant on contracts with resources companies, but we have strategies in play to ensure that our reliance on the resources sector is not as strong in the medium-to-longer term. We have a focus on some new industries, which have high growth opportunities.’
The next stage of development will see Anitua enter new market segments, he says. ‘ We will still be heavily involved in providing a range of services to new resource projects, such as the Frieda River and Wafi–golpu [mines], and we will continue to grow the group and achieve the “Lihir Destiny” of self-reliance before mine closure.
‘We are also looking closely at opportunities on Bougainville. A number of our companies have already been working there and we feel that there are definitely synergies that will come from being involved there on a greater scale.’
Gethin-jones believes the PNG government needs to focus on non-resource sectors in order to assist industries such as tourism and agriculture. The aim should be to encourage exports that are not from the resources sector.
Above: Anitua undertakes roadwork and civil construction. Below: Developing good relations with staff is critical to success.