Ellah Lakes Woes Investors, As N2.9bn Rights Issue Opens

Caption: From left, Doyen of the market Sam Ndata; Tony Ibeziako, Head, Primary Markets, Nigerian Exchange Limited; Jude Chiemeka, ED, Capital Markets, Nigerian Exchange Limited; Chuka Mordi, CEO, Ellah Lakes Plc; Jamie Rixton, Chief Agronomist; and Paul Farrer, Deputy Managing Director both of the company, during the facts behind the offer on Thursday in Lagos.

The board and management of Ellah Lakes Plc, on Thursday urged investors to be part of its plans to transform from an agricultural company into a being a fully integrated edible oil and staple crop
processing company, with products critical to Nigeria’s food security plans.
Speaking on the occasion of its Facts behind the rights issue presentation, aimed at wooing shareholders and investors as it seeks to raise N2.9bn by way of rights to existing shareholders during a facts behind the offer on the NGX Exchange Limited, Chuka Mordi, chief executive officer of Ellah Lake Plc said the offer is will also enable it achieve a positive cashflow within by 2024.
Ellah Lakes Plc is offering one billion ordinary shares of 50 kobo each to shareholders on the basis of one ordinary share for every existing two shares at N2.90 per share, held as of February 10, 2023.
In a presentation to the capital market community, Mordi spoke of plans by the company “to deliver on its Staple Crop Processing Zone strategy within a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), (by investing)
approximately $400 million in capital over the next two years.”
A breakdown of the amount shows that the lion’s share of $200 million will be invested in 300 Metric Tones per day and 100,000 Metric Tones Per Annum solvent extraction plant; followed by $150 million in a 1500MT per day Cassava-to-Ethanol Processing Plant. Site preparation, involving land clearing, civil works, and storage silos, among others; as well as seedlings, and farm tools, among others will gulp $20 million and $25 million respectively, among others.
Fielding questions on the occasion, Mordi agreed that inflation remains a challenge to the company, just like any other, noting however that the management tries “to see it from a positive perspective, (given that) we are competing against imported goods. All our inputs are in Naira.
“We expect that everything we produce can be consumed in Nigeria,” in line with the government’s policy of import substitution, he stressed.
On the question of environmental hostility, he assured that Ellah Lake enjoys cordial relationship with its host communities across the various states that host its farms.
The company’s strategy, he assured, include community engagement given inputs; and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives like education of children in the community.
As part of avoiding pitfalls of other operators within the sector, Ellah Lakes, he said engages officers who liaise with the various communities to stave off friction. This, he noted, is part of the security strategy, besides collaborating with the Nigerian Police and local vigilantes force, and employing the indigenes of the community as security personnel.

These people, he stressed further, “know all the potentially disruptive element within the community…”
Speaking on how soon Ellah Lakes hopes to begin dividend payment to shareholders, Mordi said the immediate plan is to turn around its fortune as a short to medium term priority.
“I cannot promise you as to when we will begin to pay dividend. We paid dividend in the past… We are building a sustainable company… taking the company to its illustrious past,” he added.
In the process, he said investors can be sure of capital appreciation.
While appreciating the turnaround efforts of the new board and management, the doyen of stockbrokers, Sam Ndata, noted that despite the explanations by Mordi, there is need for the board to take the issue of dividend payment seriously.
Addressing the Ellah Lakes CEO directly, Onukue advised: “If you have not been paying dividend, try to pay… Net time you are coming hear, no stories,” he stressed.
Welcoming the company officials earlier, Executive Director, Capital Markets, Jude Chiemeka, while delivering the opening remarks, noted the significant value the management has created for Ellah Lakes across several parameters such as total assets, investments in plants and machineries, and shareholders fund between 2021 and last year, despite the operational loss reported within the period.
The Exchange, he said, “remains committed to helping issuers derive great value,” while promoting good corporate governance, urging Ellah Lakes to strive for sustainability by deepening corporate governance practice.