Ports, Cinemas and Palm Oil: Vincent Bollore's African Holdings
(Bloomberg) -- Vincent Bollore’s vast African holdings are suddenly in the spotlight after the billionaire was hauled in for questioning by French judicial police on Tuesday as part of an investigation into possible bribes of public officials.
Contracts awarded to his container terminals in West Africa are part of the probe, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. Here’s a snapshot of the sprawling businesses, which span ports to cinemas through holding company Bollore SA:
Promising the best and biggest transport and logistics operator on the continent, Bollore Africa Logistics overlays the entire region, connecting warehouses and trucks through a network of agencies, with services from chartering to tracking to advising on customs and taxes and storing goods in warehouses, according to its website.
The division caters to the energy, mining and construction sectors and employs 25,000 people across 46 countries. The African logistics operations made 2.37 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in sales last year.
The main gateway to the network is Bollore’s coastal operations, which report a 13 percent market share in Africa. The 18 container terminals are mainly clustered in West Africa, including Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, Douala in Cameroon, Tema in Ghana and Lagos-Tincan in Nigeria.
The conglomerate operates 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of railways across three franchises: Sitarail connecting the Cote d’Ivoire to Burkina Faso, Camrail from Douala to the northern province Ngaoundere, and Benirail between Cotonou and Parakou in Benin, shuttling an annual 1.8 million passengers and 2.55 million tons of freight between them.
Bollore’s media interests in Africa may have gotten him into hot water with authorities. Judges are looking at whether advertising company Havas, a unit of Bollore-backed Vivendi SA, helped get African officials elected nearly a decade ago by offering services at a discount price, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
Africa has been a highlight for Vivendi’s pay-TV subsidiary Canal Plus Group, posting fast subscriber growth. In 2014, the company launched Africa-focused channel A+ and in February Canal Plus won the rights to broadcast the African Cup of Nations soccer competition. Universal Music last year opened an Africa office in Abidjan. Vivendi’s CanalOlympia is the continent’s leading network of cinemas and live performance venues, according to the company.
Bollore has also invested in controversial palm-oil production in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe, through Luxembourg-based Socfin. Bollore himself has come under criticism from Greenpeace for those investments. The environmental organization, in a 2016 report, said Socfin has a harmful impact that’s inconsistent with Bollore’s public statements about the value of sustainability in business.
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