By Dipo Olowookere
The shares of Dangote Cement seem to be suffering heavily on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as a result of the lingering crisis the firm has with one of its main competitors at the market, BUA Cement.
Late last year, BUA Group wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing Dangote Cement, owned by Africa’s richest man, Mr Aliko Dangote, of conniving with top government officials of the Ministry of Mines and Steel, including using thugs and agents of the state to ensure that its (BUA Cement) operations in Okpella, Edo State, were disrupted despite a suit pending before a Federal High Court due for hearing on December 5 and 6, 2017.
The Ministry of Mines and Steel is headed by a former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Kayode Fayemi.
The letter, titled ‘A Cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power by a serving Minister geared towards sabotaging operations of BUA Cement,’ was dated December 4, 2017.
Executive Chairman/CEO of BUA Group, Mr Abdulsamad Rabiu, had urged the President to urgently intervene and investigate what it called the acts of sabotage against BUA Cement operations by Dangote Group.
He had stressed that, “The actions of Dangote Group with the collusion and connivance of highly placed officials of government especially the Minister is directed towards destroying the business of BUA cement with the ultimate goal of creating a monopoly in the cement industry in Nigeria and control the entire cement industry and market in the country.
“This with due respect should not be allowed in a democracy and a free market. Allowing such eventual monopoly is not only inimical to the growth of the cement industry and its attendant effect on the cost of construction and housing delivery to the mass of Nigerians, but also the economic wellbeing of the nation as a whole.
“It is worrisome that Dangote Group with all its visibility and international reputation is displaying such utter lack of respect for and trust in the Nigerian Judiciary.”
Days later, Dangote replied BUA Group, accusing the firm of using thugs and security operatives to carry out illegal mining activities on its mines site.
Dangote’s Executive Director, Mr Devakumar Edwin, while reacting at a press conference in Lagos, had said, “It is appalling that BUA Group in the midst of overwhelming facts want the public to believe that Dangote Group is after its business when in actual fact BUA has been the one mining illegally in Dangote Mining Lease and attacking its officials without any justification.
“The crocodile tears being shed by BUA in its cry for help and open letter to the President is most laughable and a total distraction from BUA’s continuous illegal activities within Dangote’s ML 2541 aimed at depleting and exhausting the limestone reserves in order to sabotage Dangote Group’s legitimate investment.”
In order for the crisis not to result into a breakdown of law and order, the Edo State government led by Mr Godwin Obaseki, shut down the disputed site, pending when a peaceful resolution would be reached by the aggrieved parties.
However, Business Post gathered that since the crisis started, the shares of Dangote Cement have been in freefalling mode.
A check by this newspaper showed that the share price of Dangote Cement, which traded at N245.80k per share on December 4, 2017, closed the last trading day of last year, December 29, at N230 per share.
Also, Dangote Cement opened for the first trading day of 2018 last Tuesday at N230 per share, but ended the week, Friday, January 5, 2018, at N223.11k per share.
According to details of the firm fetched by Business Post from the NSE website, Dangote Cement has authorized shares of 20 billion, but as the close of trading activities last Friday, it has an outstanding of 17.04 billion with a market capitalisation of N3.8 trillion.
How long the crisis between both firms would last is not known yet, but investors are getting worried that it might continue to bite hard on Dangote Cement’s shares.
A closer look at the shares of the company this year showed that it lost N7 on the second trading day of 2018 to close at N223 per share, but marginally gained 11k the next day to finish at N223.11k per share, and settled for the week at the same rate after trading flat.
Dangote Cement controls 65 percent of the market share in Nigeria and this was confirmed last year when the firm released its half year financial statements.
“As a result of the slower market, our Nigeria operation sold nearly 6.9Mt of cement, down 21.8 percent on the 8.8Mt sold in the first half of 2016. We estimate our market share to have been about 64.5 percent during the first six months of 2017,” Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr Onne van der Weijde, had said.
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