Interview with Manish Rungta, Managing Director of Duet Private Equity Limited

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Duet Private Equity Limited, a subsidiary of the Duet Group, was founded in 2005 and is based in London, United Kingdom. It invests in consumer and consumer-related industries and specializes in investments in early stage, emerging growth, turnaround, growth capital, buyout, real estate and infrastructure.

Through Duet Africa Private Equity, the firm seeks to invest in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Francophone West Africa, and Ghana and considers investments between $20 million and $50 million. The firm invests with an investment horizon of five to seven years and seeks to exit its investments through an IPO or asset disposal.

In early August, Duet Private Equity Limited was reported to have acquired a majority stake worth $50 million in a multinational beverage company, Ajeast Nigeria, which is a subsidiary of AJE Group. The introduction of brands such as BIG Cola, BIG Orange and BIG Lemon has allowed Ajeast Nigeria gained significant market share in the carbonated beverage segment through time-tested marketing strategies and a strong value proposition and Duet confirmed it was delighted to be partnering Ajeast Nigeria in this expansion drive.

In this interview, Manish Rungta offers insights into the firm’s activities across Africa and plans to expand its investment footprint.

 

What piqued DPEL’s interest in AJEAST Nigeria despite an uphill battle it faces to be relevant in a market controlled by Coca-Cola and Pepsi?

Duet’s strategy is to focus on investments in sectors which are most likely to benefit from the consumer-led growth in Africa

A key sector in the consumer space is the beverage sector. It addresses both the top and bottom end of the consumer pyramid and is well positioned to benefit directly from growth in consumer spending.

Duet has previously invested in the beverages industry in Ethiopia (Dashen Brewery) and Ivory Coast (SAPLED) and has been keen on increasing investment in the sector across Africa. Big Cola and AJE group are present in over 20 emerging markets globally and most of them also have other large competitors.

Nigerian market for beverages (excluding water) is now over US$2 billion in annual sales and we believe there is more than enough room for multiple players to thrive and prosper.

Going forward we see ourselves as a beverages business in Nigeria, not just focused on the carbonated drinks category but the overall beverages segment and we believe there is a good opportunity to grow and prosper.

Like Manish mentioned during our short call, apart from AJEAST being a global brand, the huge Nigerian market also gives a compelling reason to invest. But is DPEL in for the long haul? What is the company’s exit plan?

Duet and our investors always look for long-term, high potential opportunities. We do not have a set exit timeframe and are in it for the long haul. This is one of the reasons AJE Group decided to partner with us, we have a long-term commitment and have the right beverage industry expertise in Africa to take the business to the next level.

What other deals have DEPL struck in Africa since 2003? Any exits?

Some of the other prominent investments Duet has done, specifically in the beverages industry are: Dashen brewery in Ethiopia; SAPLED in Ivory Coast

Why is DEPL so interested in Africa?

We believe there is a massive opportunity across the African continent in consumer-facing businesses. As the income levels of Africa consumers increases over time, we believe all key consumer sectors in Africa will witness significant growth and the demand for options and choices in case of brands from younger consumers will increase even faster

Which companies is DEPL watching and would likely invest in soon on the continent?

We continue to track the food and beverage sector very closely for new opportunities. We are also looking at Pharmaceutical sector as it has the key ingredients to benefit from consumer-led growth in Africa. We are looking closely at opportunities in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, and French Speaking Africa, including DRC.

Abraaj focused on the same market DEPL now plays in. What lessons have been learned from Abraaj’s challenges?

We normally focus on our own proprietary deal in Africa with a very specific focus on the consumer sector and there is no impact on our business.

What challenges do you think PE firms face in Africa?

Finding the right deal which is sizable enough from an investor point of view; Finding businesses which are able to travel, i.e: you can take them to new markets in Africa; Finding the right management team on the ground that can lead the execution and deliver growth. We believe we have all the above ingredients in the deal we have just concluded.

 

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