Abu Dhabi – Gulf Capital, a leading thematic Private Equity firm investing across the Middle East and Southeast Asia, announced the successful completion of its exit from CHO Group, a fully-integrated producer and global exporter of olive oil and the largest operator in North Africa. This investment reflects Gulf Capital’s strategy of increasing its investments in food security and sustainability across the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
During the partnership period with Gulf Capital, CHO Group expanded its production facilities and grew its local and global footprint through local acquisitions, backward vertical integration and expanding rapidly its global export markets. As a result, the Company grew its revenues by circa 33%, doubled the number of countries it exports to, extending its reach to a record 50 countries across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, while maintaining double digit EBITDA margins.
Founded in 1996 as an olive oil bulk trader operating a single crushing mill, CHO Group today manages one of the largest ‘farm-to-fork’ operations in the sector globally, using sustainable farming methods. CHO Group has demonstrated its societal and environmental commitment by supporting Tunisian farmers and millers and by promoting various forms of awareness-raising “good behaviour” practices in sustainable farming. CHO Group is committed to putting in place a sustainable development strategy which is essentially based on new plantations for the minimization of its carbon footprint and the promotion of investments in regional development areas for the creation of new business opportunities, employment, and wealth.
Chris Foll, Senior Managing Director, Growth Capital at Gulf Capital, said: “Our strong focus on food security and sustainability, as well as CHO Group’s market leadership in Tunisia, its vision and growth plans, and its talented management team made the Company highly investable with favourable growth prospects. What made the investment even more attractive to Gulf Capital was the strong focus CHO Group placed on sustainable farming and supporting local job creation. CHO Group proved us right. This sense of purpose led the company to become one of the pioneers in sustainable farming in North Africa, and more specifically in Tunisia, and to eventually become one of the leading global players in the integrated olive oil production sector.”
Gulf Capital’s and other investors’ participation also encouraged CHO Group to launch notable diversity initiatives, even at the board level. Today, women represent 25% of the company’s top management and 45 % of the full time workforce, up from a low percentage a few years ago.
With the help of Gulf Capital’s growth capital investment, CHO Group has backward integrated over 3,200 hectares of land, which produce olives to be used by its processing facilities and is planning on increasing this to 4,200 hectares over the next couple of years. In the face of increased competition and inflationary raw-material cost pressures, backward integration would help CHO Group to maintain its strong position and grow its margins despite a high inflation environment and spiralling energy costs. Research shows that about one-third of food costs are energy-related, with transportation and packaging costs representing the bulk of the rest.
Mr. Abdelaziz Makhloufi, Co-founder and CEO of CHO Group, said: “Demand for food is going to continue to increase over the next decade, driven by population growth and other factors. Supported by Gulf Capital and our other investors who believed in us and shared our vision and values, CHO Group has been cultivating its growth on solid grounds and is now ready for its next phase of growth. I want to thank Gulf Capital for their support and for providing us with the growth capital necessary to fund our rapid expansion and global exports.” The World Economic Forum (WEF) expects that demand for food in 2050 will be 60 percent greater than it is today.
Miray Zaki, Managing Director at Gulf Capital, who heads the Firm’s North Africa operations and heads investments in Sustainability, added: “Throughout our partnership, we never stopped to be impressed by the way CHO Group was able to build business resilience through enhancing its sustainable management of resources across its production and supply chain processes, leading to boosting efficiencies throughout its operations. The Company was on a consistent mission of improving its sustainability through production, productivity, energy efficiency, diversification, inclusiveness, and capacity development, while creating new jobs and generating shared value for its employees, workers, and investors. The world-class management team have truly been the best partners an investor would hope for. We wish CHO Group all the best on their next phase of growth.”