EOS CAPITAL AND ITS PORTFOLIO
Nicole Maske is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Eos Capital from 2015 to 2018 and now Partner: Value Add. Her focus is on financial services and strategy as an MBA graduate from London Business School, an Actuary and a Financial Risk Manager (FRM). She gained vast knowledge from a variety of sectors and leading businesses across Africa while at McKinsey and Company, the leading global management consulting firm, Liberty Life in South Africa, as well as Old Mutual Africa.
THE BIRTH OF AN ECOSYSTEM
When Eos Capital raised its first private equity fund in 2015, the words “Private Equity” and “Unlisted Investments” were mostly met with blank faces and vague nods, with most people guessing what these terms might mean, but not actually having any idea. The Ministry of Finance had recently put into place new Pension Fund Regulations which required Pension Funds and Insurers to invest in the real economy – into so called “Unlisted Investments” that would be managed by “Unlisted Investment Managers.”
In other parts of the world, investing into the real economy through unlisted managers was already common practice. Private equity fund managers (PE firms), the largest type of unlisted manager, invested USD 767.99bn in 2015 and USD 845.56bn in 2019. PE firms raise money from investors – mostly institutional investors such as pension funds – and invest it into private companies (not listed on the stock exchange) through a mixture of equity and debt funding. For typically 4-7 years they work with these portfolio companies, helping them achieve higher growth and become more efficient, with the goal of selling them for a healthy profit when they exit.
These new regulations were the catalyst for the birth of a new private equity ecosystem in Namibia, and Eos Capital was one of the first private equity fund managers to be registered with Namfisa. We raised our first private equity fund, the N$460m Allegrow Fund, in 2015 from 19 investors. Allegrow is a growth and operational improvement private equity fund with a Namibia-only mandate.
Becoming a self-sufficient ecosystem
For the private equity ecosystem to be properly established in Namibia, more than just the fund managers are required. They rely on other businesses to ensure they carry out their mandate. These include:
- Lawyers – drafting initial fund agreements and transaction agreements, legal due diligence
- Financial and tax due diligence providers
- Commercial due diligence providers
- Fund administrators
- Valuators – carrying out independent valuations of portfolio investments
When we started in 2015, no such ecosystem existed. Although some financial and legal due diligence had been done in the past, it was very limited and didn’t bring the benefit of experience in knowing what to look for from having seen similar deals before. Our initial fund agreements had to be written in South Africa by a firm with years of experience. There was no local fund administrator that we could use. Our first two audits were mighty confusing for us and the auditors, with no one sure what the correct format was to use for the AFS. Valuations needed to be done in South Africa.
5 years on and the ecosystem has grown. With close to 20 unlisted investment managers now registered with Namfisa, there is impetus for the rest of the ecosystem to catch up. Eos Capital has thus far made 7 investments and reviewed a number more. By March 2020, N$1.6bn has been drawn down from investors for unlisted investments in Namibia. Each time an investment was made, the other partners in the ecosystem had an opportunity to develop their skillset, thus developing the entire ecosystem. Not only do our competitors assist us in building this ecosystem by allowing other businesses to gain experience, they are also crucial when we consider deals that are too big for us and we need to co-invest. Through this we learn from each other and the Namibian private equity ecosystem grows stronger.
EOS CAPITAL’S ECOSYSTEM
To date, Eos has invested in the following companies through its Allegrow Fund:
- Elso Holdings – manufacturer of bio-degradable soaps, sanitary paper and cleaning equipment
- Fabupharm – manufacturer of pharmaceutical and personal care products
- Rosewood Academy – private school with small classes in Windhoek
- Panel to Panel – manufacturer and installer of prefabricated panels
- Heat Exchange (and subsidiaries Aqua Mechanica and Valco Pipes) – water treatment solutions and pipe provider
- Nambob – funeral services provider
- Eco Group – process instrumentation solutions and valves provider
Eos Capital’s mission is to contribute to the growth of the Namibian economy by supporting the growth of the private sector. Given the small size of the private sector in Namibia and the fact that Namibia is an open economy, the private sector needs to support each other if it wants to grow and flourish. We need to buy locally produced goods and use local services where possible. We need to share expertise and talent, collaborate on new opportunities and find ways to partner instead of only compete.
Within our portfolio we encourage the businesses to work as an ecosystem. Although each business is run independently and within a different sector, they collaborate in various ways. Some great examples: Panel to Panel recently built fantastic new classrooms for Rosewood Academy’s new school in Windhoek. Nambob has been using Elso’s expert cleaning advice and products to ensure it maintains the highest standards throughout its business. Heat Exchange is collaborating on a new offering for commercial customers with Elso. The Finance Managers in the businesses learn from each other and the CEOs support each other with advice, connections and collaborative opportunities.
Eos’s ecosystem provides a safe ecosystem for collaboration as the businesses ultimately have the same shareholder. Can it work outside of this environment? Looking at Elso, we see it does.
Elso has created an ecosystem that reaches beyond its sister companies in Eos. Its ecosystem includes:
- Plastic Packaging, a competitor, who Elso provides with products and vice versa. While we do still compete, we also support each other by buying locally what we might otherwise have imported. Elso is now also selling some of its waste to Plastic Packaging for reuse, instead of throwing it away.
- BEE Namibia (Biofuels), where Elso has replaced one of its imported products with a product that BEE produces. Together Elso and BEE are also considering new product development opportunities.
- EcoAwards, to educate their members on ways they can more sustainable by refilling containers with cleaning detergents from Elso instead of buying new containers.
- Retailers, where Elso packages a number of house brands – which actually compete with Elso’s products in store.
By integrating competition and collaboration in its ecosystem, Elso has grown and been able to enhance its offering to the market
THE BIGGER PICTURE
The sustainability of our portfolio companies is predicated on partnership with an ecosystem that transcends the operations of our portfolio companies and the internal Eos Capital ecosystem. For example, regulators coming up with fit-for-purpose and pragmatic regulations, policymakers providing and implementing policies helping local companies to thrive, competitors finding a modus vivendi between cooperation and competition, customers buying local products and institutional investors like pension funds, corporates and insurance companies giving preferential treatment and allocation to local and Namibian owned unlisted managers. Especially in Namibia, where the economic landscape is so small, we all need to work together to build the overall Namibian business ecosystem, to ensure economic growth and a sustainable future.