Top portfolio companies recognised at private equity industry awards

By Janice Roberts

The Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA), in collaboration with Investec and supported by Sanlam Investments, announced the four category winners of the second annual SAVCA Industry Awards at a gala dinner in Johannesburg last night.

“The four portfolio companies being recognised this year – while very diverse in terms of industry and approach – all have two things in common. Firstly, they have all prospered from private equity and venture capital investment in the Southern African region. More importantly, these companies all have a positive impact on job creation, the economy and social development,” says SAVCA CEO, Tanya van Lill.

As part of the judging process, van Lill says that SAVCA’s research partner, Intellidex, evaluated the ten shortlisted finalists according to a set list of criteria. “Following this, a judging panel of senior business leaders selected the winners based on a number of factors. The judges looked for evidence of growth, including profit growth and investor returns; employment creation; innovation; environmental and social impact; and the strength of their leadership team.”

Following this gruelling judging process, the 2019 category winners are:

1. 2019 SAVCA Industry Award for Best Start-up/Venture Capital Company: Aerobotics

Aerobotics is a South African AgriTech company that builds advanced analytics on top of aerial drone and satellite imagery to deliver precision farming tools for clients. In 2018, Nedbank partnered with Aerobotics to conduct an initial experiment by flying drones over pecan nut farms of a prospective agricultural client at the time. This experiment won The Banker Tech Projects Awards 2018 for Best FinTech Partnership.

Since then, Aerobotics has managed to grow significantly having reached a milestone of 33 million trees processed and approximately 80 000 hectares covered, up from 5 million trees a year ago. The company has expanded internationally to cater to the growing market demand in the USA and has also identified lucrative opportunities in Europe, South America, the rest of Africa and Australia.

2. 2019 SAVCA Industry Award for Best SME: DSES Project Solutions

Operating in the engineering sector, DSES Project Solutions is a Level 1 BBBEE, 50% woman-owned company that delivers large-scale projects in the areas of mechanical and piping, tank manufacturing, structural steelwork fabrication and erection. DSES’ story is one of a small business that was given the chance to prove itself in 2015 when it was awarded a contract at Engen Refinery. In 2017, the company was then offered funding through Engen with Edge Growth that afforded them the opportunity to purchase their own equipment and increase profit margins.

In May 2019, having grown to support a staff compliment of 250, DESES was the top achiever in HSEQ (Health, Safety, Environment and Quality) out of hundreds of other contractors that have been servicing Engen for decades.

3. 2019 SAVCA Industry Award for Best Mid-Market Company: Real Foods Group

The Real Foods Group owns several food brands with a focus on health and wellness. Kleoss Capital bought into the group in 2016 when it was still relatively small and had significant risk attached to it, taking a view that the health and wellness sector offered high-growth and resilience, and while backing the vision to consolidate the food side of this sector.

Through active investor involvement and the introduction of experienced business leaders to the board, the Real Foods Group has experienced significant expansion since Kleoss’ investment.  Today, the Group consists of six different business units, with further growth expected through international expansion activities (Europe and South East Asia) and other retail expansion opportunities.

4. 2019 SAVCA Industry Chairman’s Award: Meridian Consolidated Investments

Meridian is a prominent African agricultural inputs business that manufactures, distributes and trades agricultural commodities in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Phatisa invested in Meridian in late 2014 and exited in the first part of this year. During this period, turnover grew at 15% CAGR, employees grew from 1,900 to 2,300 and EBITDA margin improved with operating efficiency improvements across six business units.

The Chairman’s Award, explains van Lill, is awarded when there is an exceptional portfolio company that has not won its category, but deserves to be specifically recognised. “The judges felt that Meridian Consolidated Investments deserved this special recognition for achieving excellent financial and social returns in markets that are difficult to operate in, and where significant impact has been felt.”

Speaking at the event, Andrew Chananie, Head of Leverage Finance at Investec – the lead sponsor of the event – said that it has been a pleasure to collaborate with SAVCA on this important event for the second year running. “Portfolio companies like our four winners do so much for the Southern African economy, which is why awards such as these are so important to recognise their exceptional performance and raise awareness of their vital contribution to society.”

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