NBC’s rising stake in Nigeria’s economic development

THE recent announcement of plans by Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) – franchise bottler and distributor of products of the Coca-Cocla Company in Nigeria – to invest N45 billion to bouy up its operations in the country is a clear proof that the beverage firm is enjoying desired patronage.

Much more, it speaks volumes on its confidence in the economy.

Specifically, the huge sum would be used in the next three years to expand its facilities nationwide, disclosed the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Jim Lafferty.

He explained: “We have 13 plants in Nigeria, out of which three are modern. The remaining 10 needs upgrading, and over the next three years, we are going to invest N45 billion for that. That is part of our investment plans for the future.”

Obviously conscious of the multiplier effects of the company’s business activities on the economy, the NBC boss stated: “Today, there are hundreds of thousands of businesses distributing our products, building a business, a legacy for the family, and expanding every time.”

He added: “We would have concentrated on direct trading, but we did not. Hence, anywhere you go today, you will see small distributor outlets, which have impacted so much on the economic power of the people.”

Indeed, this feat was achieved through strategic investments since it commenced operation in the country over 50 years ago.

Precisely, after its incorporation in 1951, the company in 1953, began the production of Coca-Cola at a bottling facility in Ebute-meta, Lagos State. Eight years later, n 1961, NBC commissioned its second bottling facility at Ibadan, Oyo State and rapidly expanded its operation over the years.

In 1972, NBC became a publicly quoted company and listed its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

The company acquired the Eva Premium Water and Schweppes brands in 1991 and in 2000 became a member of the newly formed Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company S.A. (an anchor bottling group with operations in 28 countries worldwide).

The first ultra-modern fully automated NBC plant was commissioned in Benin in 2011, just as it launched the Five Alive juice brand in 2003; PET packaging for its Sparkling Soft Drinks category in 2004; and 33Cl Can in 2007. In 2008, NBC introduced the more environmentally friendly ‘Ultra’ glass packaging for its Returnable Glass Bottle product segments and in 2009, the company’s stock was included in the 30 stocks of Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index (ASI).

Significantly, Lafferty seemed to believe that Nigeria’s operating environment challenges are exaggerated. According to him: “There is not a challenge in Nigeria that is bad enough or worse than in other places. There are challenges, but it’s incredibly exciting, and if you decide to invest, its usually very rewarding.”

Indeed, that business is both exciting and rewarding for NBC could easily be gauged from its operational and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) profiles, both of which impact greatly on Nigeria’s socio-economic life.

Presently, the company, which was incorporated in November 1951 as a subsidiary of the A.G. Leventis Group, has 28 commercial territories and 64 depots nationwide. Its 13 bottling plants are located in Lagos (two), Oyo, Edo, Kano, Enugu, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Borno, Anambra, Imo and Rivers State. The company’s product portfolio includes beverages like Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Schweppes, Limca, Goldspot, Cappy and Five Alive. It is also produces Eva water. With an approximate workforce of 4,700 and over 300,000 distributors, which are said to be meeting the needs of an estimated 2.5 million people, there is no gainsaying that for NBC and Nigeria, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Understandably therefore, the company has a robust CSR profile.

These include the recycling of 156 metric tones of post consumer PET waste monthly into fibres used in furniture industry, the engagement of 450 students from 60 primary and secondary schools across Nigeria through the “Water Ambassador” programme as advocates of water safety, support of Nigerian Conservation Fund’s Flora and Fauna Day, provision of educational infrastructure block of classroom, perimeter fencing and bathrooms for St. Theresa Primary School, Apapa, Lagos with a population of 1,200 students under the Lagos State ‘Support our Schools’ Initiative and provision of educational infrastructure – block of classroom and drive-in – for Adeniji Jones Primary School, Ikeja, Lagos with a population of 800 students under the same initiative above.

Other CSR initiatives were the sponsorship of the bi-annual Campuslife workshops and yearly Campuslife Student Writers Awards which holds in Lagos for over 1200 undergraduate students across Nigeria, support of RISE National Youth Forum across nine states n the country, provision of educational infrastructure – block of classroom – for Sedco Basic, Enerhen, Delta State with a population of 200 students, upkeep of 200 students, upkeep for SOS Village House three (3), provision of educational infrastructure – Eyaen Secondary School, Edo State, provision of Town Halls in Ahoada and Oginigba communities, provision of ‘Back to School’ kits for Railway Quarters Primary School Kaduna with a population of 750 students, sponsorship of Lady Mechanic Initiative, Career Day Talk for 500 public school students and support of Women in Management Business (WIMBIZ).

In recognition of its CSR activities, in September 2010, NBC was recognized by the Lagos State government for its support to the states’ “Support our School’ project” with the 2010 LASG CSR Award.