Sime Darby Plantation’s Liberian operations draw takeover interest

Sime Darby Plantation deputy managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Plantation says it has received queries from a few parties interested in taking over its loss-making operations in Liberia, West Africa.

Deputy managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said the planter has signed non-disclosure agreements with a few interested parties.

He said the Liberian operations’ annual losses was between RM40 million and RM50 million.

“By disposing of the operations, it would be able to remove the losses from its bottom line,” Helmy said.

However, disposing of the operations is one of the few options currently being reviewed, and not finalised, said Helmy on the sidelines of Invest Malaysia 2019 here today.

The review will be presented to the board of directors in April and subsequently at the annual general meeting in May, he said.

Besides disposing of the operations to a third party, he said Sime Darby Plantation has the option of handing over the operations back to the Liberian government as per the concession agreement.

Sime Darby Plantation’s operations in Liberia are managed by Sime Darby Plantation (Liberia) Incorporated.

It signed a 63-year concession agreement with the Liberian government to develop 220,000ha in Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Bong into oil palm and rubber plantations in 2009.

According to its website, 10,508ha have been planted in five places, namely the Matambo, Grand Cape Mount, Zodua, Bomi and Lofa estates.

Out of the total planted area of 10,508ha, 10,401ha are planted with oil palm and 107ha with rubber.

Helmy said the company was also working with several international aides and NGOs to develop the smallholders’ scheme, which would bring in some funding.

However, the exit should not have a major impact on the company or Liberia, he said.

“We have to be mindful because we are one of the biggest employers in the country (Liberia).

“There are only three big plantation companies there.

“So, whatever we do will have a major impact on the country. But we will look at our shareholders’ interests first and we will try to balance it (the impact),” he added.