Olam International Limited is a global integrated supply chain manager, processor and trader of soft commodities, supplying products across 16 platforms to 14,000 customers worldwide.
Since it was established in 1989, Olam has evolved from a single-product, single-country geography, to a multi-product, multi-national, agri-business today.
With 56,000 employees, contract, seasonal and temporary workers from 70 different nationalities.
4 years after PMB was forcefully removed from power.
In 1989, the Kewalram Chanrai Group established Olam Nigeria Plc.
This was to set up a non-oil based export operation out of Nigeria to secure hard currency earnings.
To meet the foreign exchange requirements of the other Group Companies operating in Nigeria.
The success of this operation resulted in Olam establishing an independent export operation and sourcing and exporting other agricultural products.
The Group’s agri-business was headquartered in London and operated under the name of Chanrai International Limited.
The business began with the export of cashews from Nigeria and then expanded into exports of cotton, cocoa and sheanuts from Nigeria.
By the start of 1993, Olam recognised patterns and similarities in the skills and capabilities required to participate in agricultural production and distribution in many different product markets.
Between 1993 and 1995, the business grew from a single operation into multiple origins.
First within West Africa (including Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon and Gabon)
And then to East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Madagascar) and then India.
The move into multiple origin countries coincided with the deregulation of the agricultural commodity markets.
Olam International Limited was incorporated in Singapore on 4 July 1995 as a public limited company.
In 1996, at the invitation of the Singapore Trade Development Board (now International Enterprise Singapore), Olam relocated their entire operations from London to Singapore.
Furthermore, the Singapore Government awarded Olam the Approved International Trader status (now called the Global Trader Programme) under which Olam was granted a concessionary tax rate of 10%, which was subsequently reduced, in 2004, to 5%.
On relocation to Singapore, the Group’s agri-business was reorganised to be wholly owned by Olam International Limited in Singapore.
During this phase, Olam established sourcing and marketing operations in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Papua New Guinea, Middle East, Central Asia and Brazil.
In 2002, Russell AIF Singapore Investments Limited (managed by AIF Capital limited), became the first external investor to take an equity stake in the company.
In 2003, Temasek Holdings, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Seletar Investments, took a stake in Olam, followed by International Finance Corporation (IFC).
2005 marked a key point in Olam’s history.
After nearly a decade as a highly successful private company, Olam International Limited was listed on the Main Board of the Singapore Exchange on 11 February 2005.
Temasek made a strategic investment in Olam in 2009.
As of December 2014, following a Voluntary General Offer it holds close to 51.4% of Olam.
In 2015 Mitsubishi Corporate acquired a shareholding of 20% making them the second largest shareholder.
The Management Team of Olam has a significant shareholding in the company approximating 6.4%.
In the total issued share capital, which greatly aligns shareholder and management interests in creating value.
Olam’s free float owned by public shareholders accounts for approximately 22.2% of the total issued share capital.
Olam is active in the supply chain management of agricultural raw materials and food ingredients.
With operations across more than 70 countries, Olam supplies 44 agri-products and markets them to over 14,000 customers with a global employee strength of 26,000.
In 2010, Olam International discussed a possible merger with one of its main competitors, i.e. the Geneva-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities, the world’s largest cotton and rice trading company.
This idea was given-up early 2011, as the two parties could not find an agreement on the details of such a potential merger.
Olam announced in July 2013 that it would sell its cotton assets in Zimbabwe, with the preferred buyer being a private equity company.
In November 2012, Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research accused Olam of “deciding to take huge leverage and invest in illiquid positions”.
Questioning its accounting practices and accusing its board of an “abject failure of leadership”.
Olam called the allegations “baseless rumour-mongering” and sued Block for libel, but its shares nevertheless fell 21%.
The company is involved in the production of Coffee in Laos and the clearance of forests and villages to plant large plantations.
Areas of land that were acquired by the company were previously inhabited and farmed by villagers who had paid their land taxes and were also farming coffee alongside other products.
Compensation was only partly paid, with many evicted landholders being paid only in Rice.
Many landholders are now facing difficulty to grow enough food to survive.
This development of large industrial plantations at the sacrifice of the small holding family unit is argued by some to be counterproductive to the development of Laos;
As it reduces the overall agricultural productivity; and increases poverty amongst the families, while a few officials and the company benefit.