Nigerian oil palm processor Ellah Lakes eyes US$40m debt, equity fundraising

NIGERIA – Ellah Lakes Plc, vertically integrated oil palm processing company in Nigeria, is seeking to raise US$40 million from a combination of debt and equity capital.

The fundraising is aimed to enable the company expand its oil palm production and meet increasing demand of the commodity propelled by government restrictions on imports which has widened the existing supply gap, reports This Day.

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The government had imposed a 35 per cent tariff on imported palm-oil to boost local production and the central bank had stopped the use of foreign exchange from official sources to import the commodity.

Nigeria accounts for about one per cent of global output of the commodity, producing one million tons annually and consuming about at 1.4 million tons, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The capital raising by Ellah started earlier this year through a private placement but was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, revealed the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Chuka Mordi in an interview with Bloomberg. But the negotiations will resume once the restrictions ease.

From the US$40 million targeted, the company, based in Edo State is raising US$35 million by offering shares and debt as well as another US$5.4 million in equity.

The funds will mostly be utilized to finance oil palm plantations, seedlings and fertilizer as the company is looking to cultivate 4,000 hectares of oil palm plantation by year-end from the current 2,300 hectares.

To further its investment in the oil palm sector, the company recently revealed that it is seeking to acquire an oil palm processing company with substantial assets in Delta State.

In a note sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Ellah Lakes said, “Though a binding term sheet has been agreed, the completion of the proposed transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and execution of a definitive agreement.”

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Ellah Lakes began its journey in 1980 and built one of the largest fish farms in Nigeria. Through the acquisition of Telluria Farms in May 2019, the company transformed into a vertically integrated oil palm company.

Ellah Lakes is increasing production amid intensified efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to encourage investment in agriculture and industries to help diversify the economy away from crude oil, which accounts for 90 per cent of export earnings.

The company will export some output to earn foreign exchange even though local demand is strong, according to the chief executive.

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