Lonrho began operating in Africa in 1909 as the London and Rhodesian Mining Company. Tiny Rowland took Lonrho’s helm in 1961 and subsequently transformed the Company into a worldwide conglomerate.  At its peak in 1989, Lonrho’s profits were £272 million, up from a mere £158,000 in 1961, the year Rowland joined.

By 1995, Lonrho’s African non-mining businesses had expanded into 15 sub-Saharan African countries, with approximately 90 operating companies involved in a wide range of business activities. The businesses were mainly operated on a geographical basis, with each country being managed by a locally-based chief executive reporting directly to Lonrho’s head office in London. In 1995, Lonrho decided to restructure these African non-mining businesses. An experienced central management team was established and given the responsibility of their operation. This management team completed a strategic review, resulting in five core activities being identified (motors, agribusiness, distribution, hotels and property and construction) and the restructuring of these businesses on an activity, rather than geographical basis, took effect from 1997.

In 1998, these African non-mining businesses were demerged from Lonrho and a new company, Lonrho Africa Plc, was created. The original Lonrho name was subsequently changed to Lonmin.  In 2000, Lonrho Africa began to focus its investments and to follow a strategy of disposing of assets in Africa in order to pay off its debt and return value to shareholders. 

Following the sale of Lonrho Hotels in Kenya in 2005, the majority of Lonrho Africa’s assets had been sold and the disposal programme substantially completed. The Company’s remaining assets comprised a 59% shareholding in Hotel Cardoso in Mozambique, an industrial property in South Africa and cash resources of approximately £20 million.  At this point Lonrho Africa effectively became an investing company while continuing to seek opportunities to maximise shareholder value.

In 2005, the Board, supported by a number of Lonrho Africa’s major shareholders, concluded that it would be in the best interests of shareholders to use the Company’s strong cash position to re-establish a significant presence in Africa.

In 2013, a consortium led by Rainer-Marc Frey and Thomas Schmidheiny, two Swiss entrepreneurs, made a public take-over bid for 100% of the share capital of Lonrho, and took control July 19, 2013.  The Company has then been restored as a Private Company.

Lonrho in 2017 continues to invest in 12 countries across Africa in 3 core business sectors: Food Supply Chain Management, Market Expansions Services and Infrastructure, and a non-core IT business.

Published : 20/02/2017 15:24:13

Lonrho: 100 years investing in the growth of Africa

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