New-York based global private equity company; KKR & Co. has expressed interest in buying a percentage of leading Ethiopian flower company, Afriflora which grows about 730 million flowers for export yearly.
According to reports, KKR intends to invest about $200 million of its $6.2 billion European fund in the deal that will be its first investment foray into Africa. The deal will in turn help to fund Afriflora expansion plans.
“We see Africa as a long-term attractive investment destination… the potential is astounding. But the work to get there is going to be considerable,” said Head of KKR’s African operations Kayode Akinola.
KKR is known for its leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco of RJR Nabisco in 1988, a deal presumed the subject of the book: “Barbarians at the Gate” authored by investigative journalists Bryan Burrough and John Helyar.
KKR’s investment is coming in at a time when private equity investment on the continent is on the rise and the continent is deemed one of the fastest growing economic regions after Asia.
According to the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association report, private-equity investment in sub-Saharan Africa is about $1.6 billion in 2013, a 43 percent increase over the previous year. An African Development Bank (AfDB) report also predicts an $84.3 billion foreign investment inflow this year.
Akinola, who will join Afriflora’s board alongside KKR executive Matteo Bozzo hopes that KKR’s maiden investment in Africa will benefit both Ethiopia and the company’s investor at the long run.
He said KKR plans to develop the farm by adding 200 hectares to the existing 310 hectares the company already cultivates. The new investment will add more than 5,000 jobs.
“We have found a business that is attractive and is also having a positive impact,” Akinola added .
Afriflora currently has about 8,700 employees, 80 percent of whom are women. Its flowers which include sweetheart roses are harvested three times daily and flown to Europe for sale.
Ethiopia is a major rose exporter to Europe. In 2012, the country’s rose flower export to the region increased from €62 million ($84.6 million) in 2008 to €131 million ($178.7 million) in 2012.