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Wale Tinubu: Appraising master of the business

One of the emerging economic actors of the South-West extraction is Mr Wale Tinubu. His steady rise in business world beyond the shores of Nigeria has placed him at a vantage position among the promising sons of Yorubaland in particular and Nigeria in general. TUNDE BUSARI writes on the brain behind Oando Plc.

Due to his phenomenal breakthrough in the oil and gas enterprise, not a few easily connect with the Group Chief Executive Officer of Oando Plc., Wale Tinubu as a lawyer. Yet, Tinubu did not only study Law, he did at the prestigious Liverpool University in England and consolidated it with master degree (LLM) at the London School of Economics. This fact underscores his diversification gift from law to business. This feat also deservedly earned him a space on the cover of the elitist Forbes Magazine which described Tinubu as ‘The king of African oil’.

The history of the 49-year-old Lagosian is characterized by doggedness, focus and determination to make a difference in his chosen career.

Findings revealed that Tinubu’s journey is not all a bed of rose as he had a fair share in those experiences that make life complex. However, the doggedness in him saw him playing a cat with nine lives.

At every point of challenge, he maintained his composure and faced the obstacle headlong and had a last laugh.

History is replete of hitherto successful business magnates who abysmally failed to survive economic rough weather. But Tinubu is an exemption because he is driven by a positive spirit and indomitable energy.

In the last quarter of 2014, when oil price crashed in the world market, oil producing countries like Nigeria felt the heat as the incident marked a significant loss of foreign exchange earnings resulting in unhealthy economy.

The implication is that the international and indigenous oil company needed to struggle to stay afloat. Tinubu’s Oando recorded an N184billion loss in its year-end 2014 results due largely to assets impairments.

Consequently, tension rose among the shareholders thereby putting Tinubu and his management team at the receiving end.

However, the resilient Tinubu at the company’s 38th annual AGM, 2015, came out strongly with an assurance of regaining the shareholders confidence. He told them that the company would return to a safer zone by 2016.

Like a business prophet he is a whopping N4.1Billion after-tax profit was declared in the first quarter of 2016 in alignment with Tinubu’s promise to the shareholders.

Besides, Tinubu just concluded a $210million recapitalization of Oando Downstream by HV Investments, a joint venture owned by Helios Investments Partners, a premier Africa focused private investment firm and the Vitol Group (“Vitol”), the world’s largest independent trader of energy commodities.

To his close associates, this unprecedented feat makes no news on the strength of their belief in Tinubu’s depth and uncommon ability to turn things around without making noise.

He is a living justification of paying dues before smiling to bank hall. His partnership with the duo of Omamofe Boyo and Onajite Okoloko to co-found Ocean and Oil Services Limited in 1994 is the background to his success story.

The trio was into supply of diesel and Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) to various industries, shipping firms and exploration companies in Nigeria. As ambitious young entrepreneurs, they defied all odd on their path and bought their first vessel, MT Carolina, in the mid-90s to supply diesel to off-shore companies from the Port-Harcourt Refinery.

It was therefore not surprising that they grew the company to a multi-million dollar multinational with strong presence in five countries in sub-Sahara Africa. MT Carolina of the 90s has turned a wise risk. Today the company boasts of seven ships. Ocean and Oil Services hunger for more breakthrough is insatiable. Because Tinubu always dreams big, there was no difficulty in proving experts wrong when he successfully bided for the former Unipetrol. Unipetrol at the time of bidding occupied a front seat at the Lagos Stock Exchange, thereby making Tinubu and his management appear like a group of jesters. However, backed with its foreign technical partners, Compagnia Espanola De Petroleos (CEPSA), the second largest oil group in Spain, the deal sailed through and Tinubu finally acquired Unipetrol.

By 2005, Oando Plc became the first African company to secure a cross-border listing on the Johannesburg stock of exchange (JSE) in South Africa and in the same year Oando Energy Services was incorporated.

Through his leadership, Gaslink a subsidiary of Oando Plc successfully phased and executed the construction of about 100km of natural gas pipeline distribution network from the Nigerian Gas Company city gate in Ikeja, to cover the Greater Lagos Area including Ikeja, Apapa and their environs. Gaslink currently delivers over 60 million standard cubic feet per day of gas to over 150 customers on the Greater Lagos gas distribution network grid, with the capacity to deliver up to 101 million standard cubic feet per day.

Through its subsidiary Oando Gas and Power, Oando in 2010 built the first 12.5MW IPP Power plant for Lagos State Government and in 2011, Tinubu concluded a $3billion gas facility contract with the Federal Government.

In 2013, he led the listing of the company’s upstream subsidiary, Oando Energy Resources on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

The following year, the company witnessed the close of his best transaction yet, the acquisition of ConocoPhillips Nigeria businesses for $1.5 billion fortifying Oando’s position as the largest indigenous independent oil & gas producer in Nigeria with a current net production of 53,145 boepd (Barrels of Oil Equivalent per Day) and 230.6 mmboe (Million Barrels of Oil Equivalent) of 2p reserves and 536.8 mmboe of 2C reserves.

Tinubu’s continued exploit is worthy of emulation by entrepreneurs and prospects, especially in Nigeria’s seemingly inclement business environment.

The success Tinubu has so far achieved in oil and gas, business analysts, opine can be replicated in other sector of the economy at a time Nigeria in particular is making effort to diversify the economy with a view to surviving the current recession caused by its overdependence in oil revenue.