METL CHOOSES THE INDEPENDENT ROUTE
While some family businesses choose to bring in partners for expertise, to tackle financing constraints and to rationalise and streamline their operations, others prefer to go it alone. METL Group in Tanzania “was founded by my father and my grandmother,” says Mohammed Dewji, now group CEO. He explains how they coped with funding METL’S growth in a country that lacks a strong financial sector: “When I came back from university, the biggest bank we had was Barclays Bank. Their paid-up capital was $2m. The maximum they could lend you was 20% [of their paid-up capital]”.
Dewji was certain that a loan of $400,000 was not enough, and so took a plane to South Africa to convince bankers there. “And it was difficult to go as a family business and ask for money. It took time. But eventually we worked up to a syndicated loan with various banks – Investec, RMB, Rabo, Standard Bank – with lines of credit of over $200m,” he says.
That has allowed the company to create industrial divisions. With the heavyweight competition of ABN, Bunge and Cargil, “margins in trading have become very tight. We needed to add value,” concludes Dewji.
Thinking big: Mohammed Dewji, CEO of METL