The partner of the seal factory “sidelined” from the sale

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WALVIS BAY – Namibian businessman Gabriel Uahengo says he was sidelined and kept in the dark by his two partners, who sold their stake in the Seal Products factory in Henties Bay last month.

A disappointed Uahengo this week told New Era that the company is 100% Namibian-owned, but his two partners, Gys Cilliers and Josea Swart have sold their stake to a Chinese businessman despite his offering to redeem them.

The Chinese businessman now owns 55%, Uahengo owning 45% of the company.

Seal Products was established in 1999 with Cilliers in charge of plant management and Uahengo in charge of marketing and quota negotiations, while Swart was a silent partner.

However, internal quarrels, as well as financial constraints led them not to exploit their quota this year.

“My partners kept me out of the deal and sold their shares despite my offer to buy them back. The new shareholder apparently paid them in cash while I made them a higher offer than I would have paid in two installments, ”Uahengo said.

According to him, the last two years have not been favorable for the company and, as a result, he has managed the company’s bank loans with his personal funds.

“We have also been arguing for a new quota for many years, but without success. We currently have about N $ 2 million in bank overdraft in the bank, which I am currently paying, ”he explained.

They receive 3,000 bulls and 35,000 puppies per year but ideally need 20,000 bulls.

During the last seal hunting season, the total allowable catch of baby seals was set at 80,000, while bulls were limited to 6,000.

Despite this, Uahengo said, he wanted to keep operating and keep the business afloat instead of selling it to a foreigner.

“I wanted to keep going and that was the only reason I keep him afloat. However, my partners felt the opposite. It has been a struggle, but I wanted it to be a fully Namibian endeavor, ”Uahengo added.

He is now seeking legal advice, as he also cannot access the factory despite being a shareholder.

He added that he would have to physically destroy the property if he wants to access it as he does not have the keys to the building although he continually asks for them.

He explained that he offered Cilliers N $ 5.2 million as he sold his shares for N $ 4.9 million in cash to the Chinese businessman.

However, Uahengo was prepared to pay N $ 5.2 million in two installments.

Swart was apparently selling his stake for N $ 2.8 million but offered it to him in May for N $ 2.2 million.

“They were both willing to sell me, but later changed their minds saying they wanted to sell their shares together,” Uahengo said.

He said he contacted his new business partner but his calls went unanswered.

“Either he doesn’t answer my calls or he says he doesn’t understand English. I’m still in the dark, ”he said.

Cilliers could not be reached this week, however, Swart confirmed to New Era that the sale closed about four weeks ago and that they did indeed sell their shares to the Chinese businessman. .

“The sale was finalized four weeks ago and we had to sell because we are operating at a loss. We couldn’t afford it either, ”Swart said.

He added that it was a cash sale and they both sold to the same person. He was unwilling to reveal how much they got from the sale, however, but said it was less than N $ 10 million.

According to Swart, he offered his shares to both Cilliers and Uahengo, but the latter apparently couldn’t afford it while Cilliers, who is 81, withdrew.

“Overall, we offered Uahengo our shares and he couldn’t pay.

He even took us to the High Court where he lost the case with costs. There was no point in keeping a loss-making business. If we hadn’t sold, we would have had to file for bankruptcy, ”Swart said.

Face the challenges

The company has faced challenges over the past two years as its markets have exhausted.

Plant manager Stiaan Cloete earlier during a ministerial visit said their markets are almost non-existent.

He said their main client is based in Turkey, but they can no longer buy the hides due to the financial crisis.

“Last year we lost N $ 1 million. We will need at least 20,000 bulls to continue operations. There was, however, a huge market for selling bull genitals. However, they do so through a South African intermediary, who routes it back to the Chinese market. This is why we have asked the government to help us foster better trade relations with Asia, because there is a market for our products, unlike Europe and America where seal products are banned. . This will allow us to sell directly to Asia, ”Cloete said during the ministerial visit.

They also make a seal oil supplement which comes in powder and capsule form which is very popular among the locals.

Although it received a major backlash for the activity, the government defended its annual seal hunting exercise, citing that no harm is done to the sustainability of the seal population in the country.

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2021-10-08 Eveline de Klerk

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