DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DRC)
Company and project overview
PPC Barnet DRC is a 69%-owned subsidiary of the group, with 21% held by local partner Barnet Group and 10% by the International Finance Corporation. It is a fully integrated plant near Kimpese in the Kongo Central province in western DRC, 230km south-west of the capital Kinshasa. The administrative and sales office is in Kinshasa. Initiated in 2015 to capitalise on favourable prices at the time in a low-supply economy, the highly sophisticated 1,2mtpa plant was officially commissioned on 1 November 2017.
After successful cold and hot commissioning and testing performance guarantees, the project was handed over to local management and commissioned on 1 November 2017. While the plant has achieved high levels of performance over various production windows, due to low demand, the ramp-up period is slow and affects the cost of production. To mitigate this impact, fixed costs have been reduced to align with the ramp-up of volumes.
Sales volumes have increased from a slow start to an estimated monthly market share of 25% towards the end of the year. A comprehensive route-to-market strategy was implemented that includes branding and advertising, product and pricing strategy, distribution logistics, customer support and service, and design of the back-office sales system. The strategy is expected to provide a competitive advantage in the short, medium and long term to enable PPC Barnet to increase market share to an appropriate level. The PPC brand is well established and recognised as a high-quality product in DRC.
Export opportunities are limited due to overcapacity in countries neighbouring Western DRC. The risk of imports from these countries is actively being addressed by the industry by engaging government.
Operational performance was good in the review period, barring low utilisation. Through focused initiatives that include employee training and awareness, only two minor lost-time injuries were recorded. In addition to further training, group best practices are being implemented. The transfer of cement-specific skills from expatriates to local talent is ongoing.
PPC Barnet is active in the local community. Initiatives include providing basic infrastructure such as water to surrounding villages; upgrading local schools, clinics and health services; entrepreneurial development, particularly in agriculture; and malaria vector control through ongoing spraying in surrounding villages.
The political climate remains uncertain after elections were postponed to December 2018. This is affecting the macro-economic outlook, with GDP growth forecast at 3,5% in 2018, while net foreign direct investment remains relatively low. Inflation is forecast at 22% for the period 2016 to 2018 and devaluation of the local currency is expected to continue. However, the recovery of commodity prices is positive for the economy and political reforms will bring hope for economic growth and stability, with a resulting increase in cement demand.
Low cement consumption per capita and the infrastructure backlog present an opportunity for increased demand. Recently announced infrastructure projects, ie developing the Banana port and upgrading Ndjili airport, signal positive developments in the country. PPC Barnet is well positioned to support these projects. Its route-to-market strategy is also expected to unlock latent demand in the interior region through product innovation, market intelligence and an appropriate logistics model.
The operation expects to ramp up in line with volume growth. As such, the focus remains on improving efficiencies, reducing costs, reaching design capacities and fully adopting PPC processes and systems in the next year.