Jamaica Gleaner / Avia Collinder, Business Reporter Richard Pandohie is “happy” to get back into manufacturing, having been tapped to lead Seprod Limited, a top producer of food and industrial products.
The new CEO and managing director-designate is in his first week on the job, but he won’t take the reins of the company until January, when longtime Managing Director Byron Thompson retires at age 71.
Pandohie’s early posting is to allow for a transition of leadership.
The former engineer has walked away from international tobacco giant British American Tobacco Plc (BAT), the parent of Carreras, which he ran until 2013 when he was assigned to another job in the group.
He says the Seprod job offered him the opportunity to return home and to once again ‘bat on home pitch’.
As Seprod’s boss, Pandohie says he is planning to use the company’s strong brand equity for a bigger push into regional markets.
Although he diverted into distribution as head of Carreras, manufacturing has been familiar territory.
Starting out at Alcan as an engineer, he later worked at the Jamaica Biscuit Company as operations manager from 1995 to 1997, and later regional operations manager for Kraft Foods’ operations in the Caribbean and Central America, up to 2001.
Pandohie was on secondment to British American Tobacco Caribbean and Central America for three years before returning in 2010 as managing director of Carreras.
He was promoted by BAT in 2013 to business development manager for the Caribbean and Central America, a job based in Panama.
He has come back to Jamaica, he now says, to take up the challenge of import substitution by working in his favourite field.
“When you look at the government policy as exists today, for it to really work, import substitution has to be a key part of the component. I thought this was an opportune time to come back and to get involved in a sector that is going to play a very important role in Jamaica’s future,” Pandohie told the Financial Gleaner .
“For me, it is just gratifying to have been selected as the person to lead this organisation. I am looking forward to being a manufacturer again, to adding value … I am very excited.”
While Seprod Chairman Paul ‘PB’ Scott was not availablefor comment on the expectations of the new CEO, he noted in the
company’s 2013 annual report that the performance of the sugar operation, Golden Grove, was disappointing and weighed on the company’s results.
Last year, group earnings increased, but only marginally to $1.75 per share, from $1.70 per share. Revenue from Golden Grove fell 21 per cent.
In the chairman’s statement to shareholders, Scott said Seprod-owned brands, including Chiffon, Butterkist, Miracle, Serge, Lider and Chef, which he described as “great”, should be made a more central focus.
“It is imperative that Seprod focuses on the development of these brands both domestically and in the export markets,” he said.
Last year, Thompson delivered nine per cent growth in group revenue to $14 billion, but profit fell to $768 million, from $834 million.
In the nine months ending September 2014, the company’s sales topped $11 billion, up from $10.3 billion, while profit climbed from $718 million or $1.54 per share to $851 million or $1.73 per share.
Seprod is currently valued at about $14 billion by assets.
Thompson was quoted in the annual report saying that while exports were not as buoyant as expected in 2013, growth occurred in most markets with exports sales up by 13.3 per cent. Exported products included biscuits, milk-based products, juices, corn products, and oils and fats.
Pandohie said the potential for improving market share was “tremendous”.
” One of the things we are definitely going to work on is improving brand reach to the region. Within the Caribbean and Latin America is a lot of opportunity for growth. We can create jobs here and value in Jamaica by selling elsewhere. We can do what the Trinidadians have done,” he said.
Seprod Limited was incorporated in Jamaica in July 1940 and became a public company listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange in 1985.
The top three shareholders in Seprod are Mussons Jamaica Limited, the Coconut industry Board and GraceKennedy Pension Fund.
National Insurance Fund and Scotia Jamaica Investment Management Limited round out the top five owners.
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