Case study: Ani­tua’s se­crets

The se­crets to the suc­cess of Ani­tua, PNG’S big­gest landowner com­pany.

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Contents - By Kevin Mcquil­lan

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.’

No change

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.’

Staff train­ing

‘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.’

New mar­kets

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.

Pic­tures: Ani­tua

Above: Ani­tua un­der­takes road­work and civil con­struc­tion. Be­low: De­vel­op­ing good re­la­tions with staff is crit­i­cal to suc­cess.

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