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Bonang Mohale’s Serialong Trust acquires 25.1% stake in Gra-Tech

Entrepreneur and Business Leadership SA CEO Bonang Mohale and Afrika Tikkun Capital have acquired a 25.1% stake in Gra-Tech (Pty) Ltd, Africa’s leading industrial chemical cleaning business. The company provides essential maintenance services to a host of blue-chip clients across Africa’s industrial sector.  Customers include Eskom, Babcock, Hereaus, Hitachi, Alstom Power, Sasol, Sapref, Engen, Sappi, Mondi, Iscor, AECI, Kynoch, Arcelor Mittall, PetroSA, Caltex and Steinmuller.

Mohale describes the latest investment, the fifth made through the 100% black-owned and 75% black women-owned Serialong Trust since 2002, as a “vote of confidence in South Africa’s heavy industrial sector.  It is consistent with my investment strategy – we want to get into more industrial, engineering, and infrastructure projects as these contribute greatly to economic growth,” he said. Mohale said the Serialong Trust is putting its efforts behind Gra-Tech as, in order for South Africa to attract much needed foreign direct investment, direct domestic investment must lead by example.

Africa Tikkun Capital is a joint venture with the Afrika Tikkun Endowment Trust which was set up for the benefit of Afrika Tikkun NPC, the charity founded in 1995 by the late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris and the late philanthropist and businessman Bertie Lubner. Nelson Mandela became Patron-in-Chief in 1999. The organization works in disadvantaged communities, focusing on early childhood development, health care, nutrition and “cradle to grave” family support projects. Its goal is to ensure that black youth and in particular, young black women have the same employment opportunities as more privileged youth.

David Nuttall, who is the son of the founder and has been at Gra-Tech since it began operations in 1982 and Darren Cornish, who joined it in 1986, manage the business as CEO and Operations Director respectively. Nuttall said bringing in a businessman of Mohale’s stature and experience will sustain growth in the current tough economy, uplift its current staff complement and enable it to “build bigger and better relationships for the benefit of the company and employees.  Bonang has the expertise to drive this through,” he said.

Cornish said he was very confident about the company’s future, especially now that Mohale would be actively involved. “Over the years we have acquired an expert knowledge that encompasses most of South Africa’s industrial plants, often surpassing that of their owners.  Considering the low talent retention rates in these sectors, Gra-Tech retains deep institutional knowledge. Our job is keeping huge assets alive – we are looking after the backbone of national infrastructure,” he added.

The services that Gra-Tech provide are essential to Eskom’s continued operations.  Gra-Tech is the only African company that is authorised to conduct chemical cleaning on Level 1 plant consisting of boilers, heat exchangers and piping systems at the utility’s power stations. In addition, Gra-Tech was a key stakeholder in projects which saw the Return To Service (RTS) of the Camden, Grootvlei and Komati power stations, and, in the commissioning of Eskom’s new Kusile and Medupi power stations.

Mohale said he was not going to be a silent partner and that he would be actively involved in operations, driving growth, sustainability, corporate resilience, and transformation. He will leverage his 30+ years in the private sector and extensive experience in the petrochemical industry to grow the business by expanding both the range of industries and the number of countries it operates in.

Mohale said he was attracted to the investment by the fact that its offering was essential to keeping industrial plants operating and – equally important – by Nuttall and Cornish’s “genuine desire” to keep the lights on so that the economy can grow. He said he had been impressed by the pair’s patriotism – “all of us only have one South African passport, we have nowhere else to go and it is incumbent on us to make South Africa work” — and their genuine desire to contribute to transformation and economic growth. “Only if there is economic growth can we talk about redistribution of wealth, otherwise we are just talking about redistribution of poverty,” Mohale said.  “Furthermore, we are determined that Afrika Tikkun Capital’s investment should provide opportunities and learnerships for their pool of young talent in other industries.  This will help tackle youth unemployment; an issue which, as a national priority, requires everyone’s input.”

The deal was put together by entrepreneur Andrew Robinson, who introduced Gra-Tech’s Nuttall and Cornish to Serialong Trust and Afrika Tikkun Capital. Robinson says that  Gra-Tech is already the best industrial chemical cleaning company in Southern Africa but that the investment from somebody of Mohale’s stature would enable it to grow and to expand its offering.

For more about the company visit its website: www.gra-tech.com

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