Amid growing challenges some major Liberian concessionaires face, threatening insolvency and possible collapse, President George Manneh Weah has assured the biggest palm oil company in the country of his Government’s support and cooperation to ensure its return to better business.
“We cannot afford to lose the opportunity of the continued stay of a major investment like Sime Darby in our economy,” the President said Wednesday, February 13, 2019 when he and other sector leaders met the management team of the company.
“My government is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that this investment stays here. It is sad to hear that you will invest and not make any profit. No company will like that. Your shareholders will not be happy. That is not good. Whatever we can do will be done consistent with Government’s win-win deal with your company to ensure that this investment remains here.”
In the meeting also attended by key sector leaders, including National Investment Commission, National Bureau of Concession (NBC), Ministers of Justice, Commerce, States for Presidential Affairs as well as the Economic Advisor to President Weah, the Liberian leader said his government would do what is required to ensure Sime Darby succeeds.
The President asked the visiting Sime Darby Management team to inform the company’s shareholders and board that his government would help the company make its rightful profits, emphasizing “We will start to help you make profit.”
“I have instructed the setup of a technical team to work on the way forward as soon as possible,” the President added. “We will call on key local and international NGOs in this sector to be part of the team so that they can work with the team to ensure all the international laws are followed.”
President Weah acknowledged that Sime Darby is an international company governed by international laws and that his government would ensure that those laws are followed, noting “We do not want to violate any law.”
Earlier, the head of the delegation, Tan Sri Dato Seri Mohd Bakke Salleh, Executive Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Sime Darby Plantation Berhad informed President Weah that they have spent over US$200 million and have not broken even. He also said they are spending every month and are not making any profit.
He named some of the challenges as crops theft, construction of illegal mills close to the factory, unnecessary demands from local communities, among others. He told the President that the company has only been able to develop 10,500 hectares of land.
He said Sime Darby as a world class company, they are governed by international principles which they have committed themselves to upholding.
Also speaking, Deputy to Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer for Upstream said they had wanted to use Liberia as a case study to export to other parts of the world.
He said they were not impressed with the current situation and wanted some level of commitment from the government on the investment.
Datuk Franki Anthony Dass, Chief Advisor and Value Officer said they, as managers, were under pressure from the Board to think about possible reconsideration of the Liberia’s investment, the smallest of all Sime Darby operations since they are not getting any returns from for the investment now.