British International Investment

Feronia Inc

Central AfricaFood & Agriculture

Feronia Inc is an agricultural production and processing business in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At its heart lies a long-established palm oil business, Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A (PHC), which has three remote plantations: Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka.

Set up by Lever Brothers in 1911 and once one of the most important businesses in the DRC, the business suffered decades of under-investment due to the civil conflict in the DRC prior to its acquisition by Feronia in 2009. Feronia was established to facilitate the rebuilding of the business from a state of near-collapse.

Following substantial investments, the company now has over 20,000 planted hectares and three functioning mills, making it one of the largest palm oil businesses in Africa.

The produce is entirely consumed within the DRC which is historically a strong consumer and producer of palm oil. It is now a substantial net importer.

This investment was made when British International Investment was named CDC Group.

We have now exited this investment. This is what we achieved.

Achieved impact

This information will appear shortly

Expected impact

In late 2013, CDC invested $18.1 million in Feronia to support the revival of its existing plantation business in the DRC (i.e. Plantations et Huileries du Congo SA or “PHC”), which provides thousands of direct jobs and social infrastructure in some of the country's remotest communities. A sum of $3.6 million was ring-fenced for an environmental and social governance loan. CDC has made a number of follow-on investments over the years taking our total investment into the company to over $80m. In 2020, CDC exited its equity stake. We remained as a lender to PHC  alongside other DFIs until 2022.

Impact information

Applies to investments made from 2019 onwards. The tabs in this section define what we expect to achieve through the investment, assessing the potential impact of the investment against six dimensions of impact. You can find more details on our methodology of assessing impact here.

What?

Impact
  • Safeguard the livelihoods of workers and their dependants for whom Feronia is the only significant source of employment (SDG 8.5).
  • Improve the provision of basic amenities such as potable water, housing stock, sanitation, healthcare and education (SDG 1.4).

How?

How?

Direct: CDC’s investment will support the revival of the company’s abandoned plantations through replanting and making other investments that are necessary to create a commercially viable palm oil business. Between 2013 and 2020, production increased by over 500 per cent due to the construction of two new mills at a cost of almost $28 million and an investment of $39 million on new trees and other agricultural improvements.

Who?

Stakeholder Geography Characteristics
Employees

DRC (category ‘A’ country); PHC’s three plantations – Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka – are located in some of the poorest and most remote provinces of the DRC (Equateur and Orientale).

Mostly low-skilled agricultural labour.

Communities

DRC (category ‘A’ country); PHC’s three plantations – Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka – are located in some of the poorest and most remote provinces of the DRC (Equateur and Orientale).

High levels of poverty and reliance on informal employment opportunities and subsistence agriculture. In 2018, 72 per cent of the DRC’s population was living on less than $1.90 per day (World Bank).

How much?

Scale Depth/Duration
  • Employees: In 2020, Feronia employed approximately 4,500 permanent workers and 3,500 contractors, thus supporting more than 50,000 people directly (through the wage multiplier, assuming approximately 7 people per household).
  • Communities: Approximately 100,000 people live within or adjacent to the plantations and benefit from the social infrastructure funded and operated by PHC.
  • Employees: Between 2013 and 2020, PHC has more than doubled staff wages which are now substantially above the minimum wage in DRC, as well as improved benefits including sick pay, holiday pay and healthcare. Between 2013 and 2020, around $7m has been spent on restoring clean water provision, housing, healthcare and educational facilities.
  • Duration: Impact is expected to be long-lasting (more than 10 years) but is conditional on the company’s ability to become commercially sustainable.

Contribution/additionality

Contribution/additionality

'- Financial additionality: Commercial investors have limited appetite to invest in primary agriculture in the DRC.

  • Value additionality: We have provided significant environmental and social support since 2013. In 2019, CDC Plus co-funded a major technical assistance programme implemented by the NGO Earthworm Foundation to support the company in building ESG capacity and strengthening its engagement with local communities.
  • Mobilisation: Since 2013, we helped to mobilise over $80 million from both DFIs and commercial investors.

Grid score

Grid Score

To help us direct our investments, we previously used a tool called the Development Impact Grid. It scored investments out of four, based on two factors: the difficulty of investing in a country and the propensity of the sector to generate employment. This tool was used for investments until the end of 2021. Since 2022 it has been replaced by the Impact Score.

4

Reporting and Complaints Mechanism

The Reporting and Complaints Mechanism allows anyone outside BII to report alleged breaches of the business integrity or environmental and social provisions of BII’s Policy on Responsible Investing. This includes breaches made by BII, a BII investee, or a portfolio company of a fund in which BII has invested. The Reporting and Complaints Mechanism Rules are available here. Reports and complaints can be submitted by email to [email protected] or by mail. See more details on our Reporting and Complaints Mechanism here.

For any other general enquiries contact us at [email protected]

  • Key facts

    Last updated

    When the last quarterly update of the website database occurred.

    :
    March 2024
    Project number

    An identifier number shared by investments in the same project.

    :
    D23
    Status

    The current status of the investment (green flag for active and red flag for exited).

    :
    Exited
    Region

    The geographical region where the country is located. We currently invest in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and the Caribbean. In 2023, BII’s investment mandate was extended allowing it to invest in regional funds linked to Ukraine, with the majority of activity expected to begin post-war. Investments outside these regions were made prior to 2012 under previous investment mandates.

    :
    Central Africa
    Sector

    We prioritise those sectors that facilitate development and need our capital the most. Our priority sectors contribute towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals. They range from investing in the power infrastructure that will provide people with better access to electricity, to investing in financial institutions that direct capital to the individuals and businesses that need it the most.

    :
    Food & Agriculture

    We provide capital in the following ways: directly – through direct equity, direct debt, guarantees and other non-intermediated financial instruments; and indirectly – principally through investment funds.

    For direct investments and fund investments, this is the date BII committed capital to the investments. This is typically the date on which legal agreements are signed by all parties.

    For the portfolio companies of our fund investments, this is the date (either the month or the quarter) on which the fund committed capital to the portfolio company.

    For direct equity investments, this is the date at which British International Investment exited the investment.

    For debt investments, this is the date at which the final debt repayment was made.

    For funds, this is the date at which the fund was terminated.

    For underlying fund investments, this is the date at which the fund manager exited the investment.

    The total amount committed, per financial instrument, per investment, on the date BII becomes subject to a binding legal obligation to provide funding or assume a contingent liability. This information is provided in US dollars.

    For direct investments, this is the amount that BII has committed to the business or project. For fund investments, this is the amount BII has committed to the fund.

    The currency in which the investment was made.

    Investments :
    Type Amt Curr Start End
    Debt $3.6m USD 11/2013 12/2021
    Equity $14.5m USD 11/2013 11/2020
    Domicile

    The company or investment fund’s place of incorporation.

    :
    Canada

Related investments made by BII into this company:

Investment name Commitment Region Sector Start date Status
Investment 02 $23.28m Central Africa Food & Agriculture January 2015 Exited
Investment 03 $1.8m Central AfricaCentral Africa Food & Agriculture December 2016 Exited
Investment 04 $6.64m Central AfricaCentral AfricaCentral Africa Food & Agriculture June 2018 Exited
Investment 05 $23m Central AfricaCentral AfricaCentral AfricaCentral Africa Food & Agriculture March 2019 Exited
Investment 06 $439.59k Central AfricaCentral AfricaCentral AfricaCentral AfricaCentral Africa Food & Agriculture May 2019 Exited
Investment 07 $4.5m Central AfricaCentral AfricaCentral AfricaCentral AfricaCentral AfricaCentral Africa Food & Agriculture March 2020 Exited

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