‘LIFT OFF’ FOR FIMA FILMS
Country-wide functions marked the launch of Fima Films, following last year’s management buy-out of Treofan’s South African operations. GILL LOUBSER tells the story.
SOME of us will recall names such as Kalle Films and Hoechst Films, which subsequently metamorphosed into Trespaphan and then to Treofan. However, the time has now come to consign those names to the history books – once and for all!
Following protracted negotiations with the company’s German owners, the management buy-out (MBO) of Treofan South Africa was eventually signed in July last year and shares exchanged in October. As we reported last month (PPM New Year 2010, p8), the company’s name was then changed to Fima Films. (Fima, incidentally, stands for Film Making!)
Operating under a dynamic management team, headed by Pieter Swart and Patrick Munyembate as joint CEOs, enthusiastically supported by chairman, Jonathan Heinamann of Athena Capital, the name Fima Films was formally ushered in at a series of ‘customer events’ in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
But whatever its name, one thing has remained constant throughout the decades of the company’s presence in South Africa – a passion for technical excellence and customer care.
Says Pieter Swart, ’The acquisition of the South African business by the management team is an important milestone, bringing the business under local control and financing.’
However, as he goes on to explain, over the last quarter century (see sidebar), the South African operation has built a solid reputation as a high-quality, service-orientated supplier of BOPP films. ‘We’re now looking forward to continuing to provide customers with a personal service and to grow our business further into Africa,’ Pieter comments.
In terms of the MBO agreement, Fima Film has exclusive rights to use Treofan’s intellectual property, brand names and technical know-how in the manufacture and supply of the South African product range, as well as the rights to continue selling and marketing Treofan’s full product range in most African countries, on an exclusive basis.
Explains Pieter Swart, ‘In many ways, Fima is a new beginning for us, and this new name is our first approach to doing business differently. Our core business, however, remains the same – with some amendments to current product names – and exciting additions to our product offering.’
According to Patrick Munyembate, production of the current South African range will continue as normal with ongoing improvements and new developments being high on the company’s agenda. ‘We’re very excited to have exclusive rights to sell Treofan’s product range into southern Africa and the rest of Africa, and we’re even more excited to focus on our own product range with the development of a bigger and better local label film production,’ Patrick comments.
‘The future lies with our customers,’ Patrick insists. ‘In making our customers successful, Fima Films will be successful. That’s our number one goal.’
He also emphasises Fima Films’ strong R&D investment programme in order to bring innovative films to the local market, whether for flexible packaging or, increasingly, for labelling applications.
Chairman Jonathan Heinamann is equally fired up about the new company, in which his company Athena Capital is a significant investor. ‘But we’re not just passive investors,’ he insists. ‘We believe strongly in this partnership. We believe that local is lekker, especially when combined with ongoing German technical input. This MBO isn’t just about capital, it’s about creating value for everybody through maximising people’s potential,’ Jonathan adds.
Final word (for the moment) goes to Patrick: ‘My hope is that the new customer experience is enhanced by our focused product range that offers a fresh level of quality and innovation, as we believe our only limitation is our imagination.’
But undoubtedly that’s not the last word, as we watch this new entity lift off and as we anticipate further inspiring news in the months ahead.
At the Johannesburg party, P&PM’s Karen Stretch and Susi Moore chat to Jonathan Heinamann, chairman of the new Fima Films.
Lucky draws were a feature of the events. In Johannesburg, the winner was Bernard Mahl of Safripol. He’s seen here with Des Eve, Fima Films’ human resources manager, and Megan Hainsworth, the company’s marketing executive. In Cape Town, the prize was presented by Pieter Swart to David Helfich of Benchmark Agencies.
Enjoying the sun at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront were Ingrid Schoeman (Woolworths), Hendrik du Plessis (Athena Capital), Megan Hainsworth (Fima Films), Mark Thatcher (Forge Capital and a non-executive director of Fima Films), Patrick Munyembate (Fima’s joint CEO), and Jonathan Heinamann (chairman).
History in focus
FOR the history buffs, Kalle Films’ South African BOPP plant, situated in Chamdor (outside Krugersdorp), was established in early 1984.
High-tech equipment was installed – initially to carry out local slitting of film brought to the plant as jumbo reels from Germany. Later, extrusion equipment (using the stenter stretching process) was added, so that by the end of 1984 quality biaxially-orientated polypropylene (BOPP) film was being produced locally that was as good as material imported from Germany.
Two years later the name changed from Kalle Films to Hoechst Films.
Initial capacity of the Chamdor plant was 5 000 tons/annum – representing a significant import replacement effort and saving the country an annual R20-million in foreign exchange – a hefty sum in 1984.
This was a period of high growth for polypropylene film, as it started to eat into traditional cellulose film markets. It was also a time of disinvestment in South Africa and an era of increasing political and economic isolation, so the establishment of a local production facility was welcomed by flexible packaging converters.
In 1992, the German owners pumped further investment into Chamdor in the form of a second BOPP line which doubled capacity to some 10 500 tons/annum, keeping pace with growth in the local snack food and confectionery sector. In 1999, following a spate of ‘unbundling’ by Hoechst, the Krugersdorp manufacturing operation was established as an independent company, owned by a new global business spun out of Hoechst and named Trespaphan. It was subsequently renamed Treofan in 2004.
Pieter Swart and Patrick Munyembate and the new team at Fima Films have inherited a solid infrastructure.
Both lines were designed to produce high-tech films. The first line was designed by Hoechst, and the second line was a hybrid line, incorporating Brückner as well as Hoechst technology. In addition, there’s been some upgrading over the years – the most significant being a R45-million investment in changing the original line from three-layer to five-layer technology in 2004, and then increasing output capacity by some 20% on the second line, bringing capacity to 12 000 tons/annum.
All of this gave Treofan South Africa access to the market for value-added speciality products – just one example being the replacement of imported films for in-mould and wraparound labels. And now this world is Fima Films’ oyster.