By UDUMA KALU
WHO is richer, Mike Adenuga or Aliko Dangote? a debate from Forbes making the round in economic circles asks.
Last March, Forbes published its annual rankings of the world’s richest people. Debutant Mike Adenuga was ranked second richest Nigerian, with a net worth of $2 billion, while Aliko Dangote netted $13.8 billion.
According to Forbes, Dangote’s fortune surged 557% last year, making him the world’s biggest gainer in percentage terms and Africa’s richest individual for the first time. The catalyst was listing Dangote Cement, which integrated his investments across Africa with his previously public Benue Cement; it now accounts for a quarter of the Nigeria Stock Exchange’s total market cap.
Already, the continent’s biggest cement maker, he has plants under construction in Zambia, Tanzania, Congo and Ethiopia and is building cement terminals in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia, among other places. Dangote, who recently bought himself a $45 million Bombardier aircraft for his birthday, has been shuttling back and forth to London for months, in anticipation of a public offering there later this year. Dangote began his career as a commodities trader; built his Dangote Group into conglomerate with interests in sugar, flour milling, salt processing, cement manufacturing, textiles, real estate, and oil and gas.
However, shortly after the list was published, controversy erupted in Nigerian media circles, questioning the Dangote’s ranking. According to Mfonobong Nsehe, aForbes researcher who writes for Forbes, Forbes annual rankings of the world’s richest are based on conservative estimates. “We would rather be too low than too high.
When working on the 2011 list of the world’s richest, a Forbes reporter tried to reach Dr. Adenuga’s representatives to verify his assets, but Adenuga, a chronically reclusive tycoon, did not respond. As a result, our valuation of the man was based solely on his stake in his telecom company Globacom Holding, which at the time was worth $2 billion.”
Nsehe’s report now posted on forbes website said, fresh findings from a variety of sources including staff from some of his offices, the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission and analysis from professionals in the energy and telecom sectors indicate that the reclusive telecoms and energy tycoon is easily worth more than $2 billion, and could be richer than Aliko Dangote, last worth $13.8 billion.
Apart from his 74% stake in Conoil PLC, a Nigerian-listed oil marketing firm he founded (the stake is held through ConPetro Limited, a holding company he fully owns) and his holding in Equitorial Trust Bank, Adenuga owns 100% equity in all his other businesses. Of those, the major assets include Conoil Producing, Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil exploration and production company, which operates six producing oil blocks and holds a 25% stake in Joint Development Zone Block 4, an oil prospecting licence which has proven reserves of close to 1 billion barrels of oil and close to a trillion cubic feet of gas.
According to sources at Conoil Producing, the company produces 100,000 barrels of oil per day – much more than any other indigenous exploration firm in the country. In April, Adenuga spent $650 million acquiring Shell’s stake in Oil Mining License (OML) 30, Shell’s most profitable onshore oil block in Nigeria, which is located in the western swamps of the Niger Delta. Adenuga currently controls total equity of Conoil Producing, which analysts estimate could be worth as much as $10 billion. (My calculations are not yet final.)
Among his other assets: mobile telecom firms Globacom Holding and Globacom West Africa, two distinct companies with a combined subscriber base in excess of 30 million people and operations in Nigeria, Ghana, and Benin. Adenuga also single-handedly owns Globacom – at least on paper.
Adenuga also owns equity in Equitorial Trust Bank, one of the few privately-held commercial banks in the country. I haven’t been able to establish Adenuga’s stake in the bank, or its market value. However, Equitorial Trust Bank is one of Nigeria’s less popular banks, so I reckon it won’t be worth so much. The man also owns extensive real estate holdings in some of Nigeria’s most expensive neighborhoods, including the Mike Adenuga Towers, a landmark building in Victoria Island, Lagos. He also owns property in Banana Island – Nigeria’s most expensive neighborhood – and several other properties in Abuja, London, the U.S and Dubai.
Tracking down Adenuga’s net worth is tough work, involving intensive research, series of meetings, conversations and consultations with analysts, journalists, and Adenuga employees. The man himself continually refuses to talk. Speculations are rife in Nigeria that Adenuga might be a front for Nigeria’s former military president, Ibrahim Babangida. So in a real sense, Adenuga might not own it all. However, Adenuga’s people have denied a business relationship between their boss and the former Nigerian ruler.
“A couple of weeks ago, I had a lengthy conversation with Chief Dele Momodu, one of Africa’s most legendary publishers, a former Nigerian presidential candidate, and a protégé of billionaire Mike Adenuga. I was doing research for one of our Forbes lists, and I was seeking his insight into the wealth of some of Nigeria’s richest people. Speaking on Adenuga, he said: “No one in Africa is as rich as Mike Adenuga.”