Archive for category Africa

Industry Talk: Olive Group Merges With Constellis Group

This is the other big news I wanted to write about. I have written about Constellis Group in the past and they are definitely making some big moves. They merged with Triple Canopy, and while I was gone this happens. They merged with Olive Group!

And speaking of size, I wanted to get some information about exactly how big the family of companies are with Constellis Group? Here is what they said in a tweet.

Over 10,000 employees and contractors! That is a division in military terms. lol And if Olive Group’s numbers are correct, that means this merger doubled the size of this family of companies. Wow…

Some other side news with this merger is that Olive Group just purchased Newport Africa late last year. So Constellis is making a huge Africa play with this merger, and especially East Africa and in the oil and gas industry.

I was able to find a quote from the CEO of Olive Group as to their view of the merger and what it will mean for the company. Here it is.

The merger will provide us with a deeper funding base and allow the business to expand into new areas,” Mr St George told the Telegraph. “The world is not getting a safer place.”
Olive will continue to trade under its existing name and both the St George
brothers will take seats on the board of Constellis, which has traditionally specialised in Federal contracts in the US. Olive expects to hire more ex-forces staff according to Mr St George. The company will be looking to expand over the coming years and take on more ex-UK services personnel and operations staff to help it grow in key markets such as North Africa, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Olive already employs around 5,000 people working in 20 different countries.

The other news for this deal is Moody’s assigned a B3 rating to the $450 million, five year second lien notes of Constellis Holdings, LLC. The rating outlook is ‘stable’. What is cool about this story is that Moody’s identifies what gives this rating it’s stable outlook. Here is a quote with my emphasis in bold black.

Moody’s calculates pro-forma debt/EBITDA and EBITDA/interest at the low 6x and low 2x levels, respectively (after Moody’s standard adjustments) as of the fiscal year ending December 2014, based on audited financial statements and taking into account the additional debt and Constellis’ acquisitions over the year. Estimating metrics is made difficult by the wide number of cost actions undertaken/planned, and the only partial year contribution of acquisitions during 2014.
These metrics compare somewhat favorably to many defense services contractors also rated at the B3 CFR. Nonetheless, operating cash flow in 2014 was modest despite the large tax refunds. Funding the Olive acquisition will increase financial leverage somewhat, and there is still limited visibility into Constellis’ cashflow. Further, Moody’s estimates that the pending dividend equates to more than a year’s worth of prospective free cash flow and the Constellis growth strategy will continue to emphasize acquisitions.
The high concentration on the US Department of State’s (DoS) Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) contract, which expires in October 2015, represents a rating constraint since the contract will make up a third of revenues pro forma for the Olive acquisition. At present, the $17 million of near-term debt amortization scheduled seem high versus reported funds from operation. Liquidity should improve given the lack of scheduled debt amortizations going forward and expectation of free cash flow.
The stable rating outlook benefits from expectations of steady profits from rising demand as a result of ongoing conflicts throughout geographic regions where Constellis and Olive operate (i.e. Middle East, North Africa). Increased security needs for the US Department of State’s diplomatic activity as well as for energy sector customers favors the demand setting. Potential for cost actions to raise cash flow generation also factor into the outlook.
Upward rating movement would depend on better intermediate term revenue visibility, which is unlikely to develop until after the WPS successor contract outcome is determined. (WPS task orders can endure beyond that contract expiration date.) Adequate liquidity, expectation of FFO/debt greater than 10% with annual FCF greater than $25 million would likely accompany an upgrade.
Downward rating pressure would result from backlog declines, weaker liquidity or low free cash flow.
The principal methodology used in these ratings was Global Aerospace and Defense Industry published in April 2014. Other methodologies used include Loss Given Default for Speculative-Grade Non-Financial Companies in the U.S., Canada and EMEA published in June 2009. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of these methodologies.
Constellis is a global provider of training and security services focused on counter terrorism, force protection, law enforcement and security operations. From 2010 to October 2014 the company’s name was Academi Holdings, LLC. Before its 2010 ownership change, the company had been named Xe Services and Blackwater Worldwide. Pro forma for the pending acquisition of Olive, revenues in 2014 would have been approximately $1 billion. The company is majority-owned by Forte Capital and Manhattan Partners.

As you can see with the rating study, WPS is very important to Constellis Group. It also makes sense why they made their move with Triple Canopy–to secure more WPS business. The merger with Olive Group covers the oil and gas sector and entrance into Africa. I suspect we will see Constellis Group making more moves and getting bigger. The question is, who is next? –Matt

Constellis Group to Merge with Olive Group
MAY 7, 2015
Transaction creates the global leader in security, risk management, and complex programme management services Constellis Group’s capabilities in programme management and training combines with Olive Group’s strength in the provision of risk management solutions for blue chip corporate clients
A strong, well-financed platform for growth will help clients face increasingly complex challenges and risks. Olive Group will drive the combined Group’s enhanced offering for corporate clients operating in the energy, aviation and infrastructure sectors, particularly in the Middle East and Africa
Olive Group’s management team remains unchanged as the founders join the Board of Constellis.
Constellis Group and Olive Group jointly announced today that the two parties have agreed to merge Olive Group into the existing Constellis Group of Companies. Olive Group will drive the entity’s global focus on commercial sectors, and this merger establishes the combined resources and funding to deliver ambitious plans for commercial expansion, to which both parties are committed. The merged entity will leverage Olive Group’s market leading position and reputation for new growth.
Olive Group is a leading provider of innovative risk management solutions, which include security, programme management, life support and technology solutions, to blue chip commercial customers operating primarily in the energy, aviation, and infrastructure sectors. Headquartered in the Middle East with principal offices in the UAE, UK, and USA, Olive Group has more than 5,000 staff operating in 20 countries on 5 continents. Olive Group will continue to operate its distinct and highly respected brand, driven by its reputation of delivering operational excellence in conformity with the strictest compliance standards in the industry. Olive Group’s management team will remain unchanged and is committed to driving the growth of the combined Group with the scale and support afforded through this new partnership with Constellis Group’s global operations.
Chris and David St.George, co-founders of Olive Group, will join Constellis Group’s Board of Directors, adding immeasurable value, insight, and relationships in the commercial markets they and Olive Group’s leadership team helped establish over the past decade. Olive Group’s founding shareholders have chosen to maintain a significant ownership position in the combined entity.
“We are excited to welcome Olive Group into the Constellis family,” said Craig Nixon, CEO of Constellis Group. “The leadership, experience and capabilities of our combined operations establish us as a full-service risk management, integrated security, and managed services provider with a global presence.”
Olive Chairman Chris St.George said: “Olive Group’s clients face increasingly complex challenges in managing a myriad of risks including the safety of personnel, integrity of investments, regulatory compliance and the protection of corporate reputation. As a result, Olive Group needs to offer more services, and this merger establishes a unique position for the company to meet these global operational demands.”
Martin Rudd, Olive Group’s Managing Director, who will continue to lead Olive Group added: “Triple Canopy and Olive Group share deserved reputations for operational excellence and governance across government and commercial clients. Not only will this combination allow each company to benefit from the other’s considerable experience, but it will provide us both with a broad and resilient platform for growth. We are tremendously excited about the opportunities which lie ahead for the combined Group”.
The transaction brings together a global team of industry leaders serving a broad list of customers that include governments, NGOs, and a diverse mix of commercial entities. The transaction furthers Constellis Group’s participation in the commercial sector and provides global expansion into established and emerging markets across several continents. Operating under the oversight of a distinguished Board and an experienced management team, the combination of these companies will enable a significant expansion of services within the global stabilization market, delivering complex program management, mission support, integrated security solutions, training and advisory services throughout the world.

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Industry Talk: STTEP and Relentless Pursuit In Nigeria

Nigerian army 72 mobile strike force operatives pictured with their newley acquired beryl rifles. credit: nigerian_armed.forces

I have been away from the blog for awhile and now I am trying to play catch up. Over the last couple of months, probably the most significant story that stood out to me was the news from Eeben Barlow’s company called STTEP. Apparently they were on contract in Nigeria to help the Goodluck Jonathan government turn the tide agains Boko Haram. You heard that correctly–STTEP was called in to take on Boko Haram, a vicious jihadist group who is now allied with ISIS!

Now honestly, I had heard rumors of South Africans fighting in Nigeria last time I was home and hanging out on Facebook. What really grabbed my attention though was the deaths of Leon Lotz and Nangombe, both of which were former Koevoet, and both of which were working in Nigeria as contractors. The company they worked for was Pilgrims Africa Limited (or a subsidiary of Pilgrims Group Limited), which the managing director for PAL is Cobus Claassens.*

Cobus is quite the character and he was involved with Executive Outcomes back in the day. He was also on the History Channel with a show called Shadow Force and in the documentary called Shadow Company. If that isn’t enough, he was also the inspiration for Danny Archer, the main character in the movie Blood Diamond.

The thing with this news, is there wasn’t a lot to go with it. What were these guys doing there. Also, why was Boko Haram getting destroyed in Nigeria?

Well, it was only until SOFREP and Jack Murphy was able to score an interview with STTEP, another group operating there, where the bigger picture unfolded. Here is a quote of why STTEP was there and how their contract morphed from rescuing the Chibok Girls to fighting and stopping Boko Haram, based on the interview Jack did with Eeben Barlow (the chairman of STTEP).

The chairman of STTEP, Eeben Barlow, reports, “Our relationship with the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Armed Forces is very good, and as fellow Africans, they recognize the value we have added thus far at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.”

In mid-December of 2014, STTEP was contracted to deploy to Nigeria. Their mission was to train a mobile strike force to rescue the Chibok school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. When the terrorists abducted over 250 schoolgirls, it drew international media attention and put the ‘Nigerian Taliban’ on the map. Michelle Obama responded to the kidnapping with a perfectly ineffective social-media campaign driven by the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

An advanced party of South African military veterans working for STTEP landed in Nigeria by early January of 2015. Instead of social-media activism, they held a selection program for the elite Nigerian military unit they were to train while the main body of STTEP began to arrive. “It is a mobile strike force with its own organic air support, intelligence, communications, logistics, and other relevant combat support elements,” said Barlow. He declined to name the unit they were training, but an open source investigation strongly suggests this unit is the 72 Strike Force.

By the time the main body of STTEP contractors arrived, the selection process for the Nigerian strike force was complete and training was able to commence immediately. “We built it from scratch,” Barlow explained, “and were able to, in a very short space of time, get it combat ready. The results this force achieved, along with the support of the Nigerian Army, are indeed remarkable.”

STTEP trained the Nigerian strike force in mounted and dismounted tactics with an emphasis on operational flexibility, which was tailored toward the unit’s specific mission. “I think we sometimes gave them [Nigerian military] gray hairs, as we were forever begging for equipment, ammunition, and so forth,” Barlow said as they conducted training in a remote area. “But, the credit in this instance goes to the chief instructor and his men, who implemented the training.”

The South Africans trained their Nigerian counterparts in the tactics, techniques, and procedures that they had practiced and refined on the battlefield since South Africa’s conflicts in the 1980s, including Barlow’s concept of relentless pursuit (which will be explored in a future article).

Meanwhile, Boko Haram was experiencing an increase in operational tempo and achieving successes in their area of operations. The militants captured Gwoza and established a base there in August, followed by the border town of Malam Fatori in November and Baga in January near Lake Chad. By early January of 2015, Boko Haram was estimated to have control over 20,000 square miles of territory.

With this in mind, STTEP’s mission quickly transitioned from training a rescue unit to training a rapidly deploying mobile strike force, and mentoring those they trained in the field. “By late February, the strike force conducted its first highly successful operational deployment,” Barlow said.

Outstanding and the interview is quite extensive. It is spread out over a six part series and each part discusses the various aspects of the contract and what they did. They also dispelled some myths and lies that was being reported on out there. Not only that, but Eeben dedicated several blog posts to the contract and dispelling myths. Here is a link to each post by SOFREP and Eeben.

SOFREP Interview

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 1): PMC and Nigerian Strike Force Devastates Boko Haram

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 2): Development of a Nigerian Strike Force

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 3): Tactics Used to Destroy Boko Haram

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 4): Rejecting the Racial Narrative

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 5): The External Drivers of Nigeria’s War

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 6): South African Contractors Withdrawal from Nigeria

Eeben Barlow’s Military and Security Blog

Updating the Narrative

Feeding the Narrative

I have also found some interesting outside links that discuss either the contract or filmed the action of Mobile Strike Force 72.

Beegeagle’s Blog

South African Mercenaries and Nigeria; Chairman of STTEP, Colonel Eeben Barlow, Speaks to the Beeagle’s Blog Community On Pervasive False Narratives

Vice

The War Against Boko Haram (Full Length video)

MediaUno

COUNTER INSURGENCY OPERATION: The Gains and Prospects ( various shots of trainers working with Nigerians)

72ND MOBILE STRIKE FORCE

As you can see with most of the material, Eeben has been definitely working hard to correct the narrative and call out the myths and lies about this contract. There are plenty of sources of information for folks to tap into when it comes to this contract.

A couple of things that I was curious about, was the methodology or model for this contract. In Part 3 of the SOFREP interviews, the tactics were discussed. It sounded like the model of operations was a mix of what Executive Outcomes did in Sierra Leone (read Eeben’s book Executive Outcomes: Against All Odds or Roelf’s book to read more about that) and it also sounded a lot like what Koevoet did during the South African bush wars. STTEP applied the principal of ‘relentless pursuit‘ to this contract, and yet again, we see success. (Eeben blogged about the concept) Here is a quote from the interview.

 

When asked about the tactics that STTEP mentors their Nigerian counterparts to use, Eeben Barlow, the company’s chairman, replied, “The strike force was never intended to hold ground. Instead, it operated on the principle of relentless offensive action.” Barlow has previously indicated that this tactic is key to waging an effective counterinsurgency.

In the doctrine Barlow advocates and made use of in Nigeria, relentless offensive action means immediately exploiting successful combat operations to keep the heat on the enemy. This strategy relies of the synchronization of every asset brought to the battlefield, and applied on multiple fronts against Boko Haram. One of those tactics includes the relentless pursuit of enemy forces.

As to the strategy, I asked Eeben on his blog about how involved STTEP was in formulating the strategy to go after Boko Haram. Here is his answer.

In Nigeria, the Strike Force was an asset of a certain infantry division. As such, the division commander was responsible for the overall theatre strategy. He would brief us on a specific operation and ask for our input. He would also ask us how best we could support his operations.
Generally, our relationship with African armies is that they engage with us on planning and execution and we give our input. At times, we are asked to plan the overall operation and then oversee the execution.

It is also important to note, much like EO’s contracts in Angola and Sierra Leone, that STTEP also had involvement with the aviation side of this contract. Here is the quote from the interview.

STTEP also brought an air wing to the table with its package of trainers, advisors, and mentors. The air wing is an organic asset of the strike force and takes its orders from the strike force commander. The pilots fly a variety of missions to include CASVAC, MEDVAC, resupply runs, transporting troops, and even providing air support for the strike force. For instance, the air wing was “given ‘kill blocks’ to the front and flanks of the strike force and could conduct missions in those areas,” Barlow said. This means that the air wing dropped ordnance to create blocking positions, which would prevent the enemy from escaping the operational area that the strike force was patrolling in, essentially isolating the objective area.

Now what I am not clear about, and I don’t think it has been mentioned in the interviews, is if STTEP and Pilgrims Africa Limited were working together in a partnership? Also, with the new president of Nigeria coming onto the scene, I wonder if they will use the services of STTEP?

After discussing this with Eeben on his blog, more than likely Buhari will turn to western aid and money, which will undoubtedly edge out smaller companies like STTEP. That is too bad. Although I have a feeling that STTEP will be getting more business because of their actions in Nigeria, or what they did in the hunt for Kony. Africans helping Africans…

Very interesting stuff and congrats to STTEP for a job well done. Also, good job to the other contractors like Pilgrims Africa Limited working in Nigeria that are helping to defeat Boko Haram. Rest in peace to the fallen and I certainly hope that Nigeria will remember that sacrifice. –Matt

Edit: 6/19/2015- After posting this, I have already received some interesting feedback and I got a correction on some of the details here. The two big ones is that STTEP and Pilgrims Africa Limited were not working together on the training/mentoring contract, and PAL was only involved with the logistical tasks supporting the contract. Leon and Nangombe were also working for STTEP at the time of death and not Pilgrims Africa Limited.

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Industry Talk: Prince Targets Aviation And Logistics In Africa

So is this Blackwater part 2?
“It’s similar,” Prince replied. “But we’re not here to serve government or defence projects, we’re not there to build their police force, nothing like that. We’re there to move an NGO, an advanced seismic crew or a drilling crew from a mining company, or if an oil operation needs their camp supported and built.”

The story of Erik Prince starting Frontier Resource Group and focusing on Africa is not new and I have blogged about that when it first came out. But what was missing were the details, or at least more than what was available at the time I posted that stuff. Thanks to the Civilian Warriors book and all the interviews, Prince has been able to talk a little more about this new venture.

So in the articles below, there are some great little details to pluck out and talk about. The first one that I thought was interesting, was the ‘a ha’ moment for Prince as to what area of business he wanted to get into in Africa.

Prince, who has flown since he was 16, said he realised the potential of operating a safe and reliable air service a year ago when the aircraft which was flying him back from a mine site in Burkina Faso nearly crashed.
“A scary moment but also one of clarity,” he said.

I mentioned in my review of his book that he is an entrepreneur and businessman, and he constantly looks at the world through this lens. His ‘a ha’ moment for the creation of Blackwater came from the realization that he needed to be home with his family, and the SEALs and other groups needed a consolidated, all in one training facility. So he identified a market weakness that he could exploit, and also saw the advantage for his personal well being.

He is also a pilot and has had a love for aircraft since he was younger. In his book, he was very proud of all the aviation ventures that BW got into, so this move towards aviation and logistics in Africa makes sense.

The other tidbit is the quote up top and what was directly asked in regards to security work. He was asked by the WSJ on whether this new venture would include armed security work or not? Here is the quote.

Such high costs also reflect the dangers of piracy and civil conflict, but Mr. Prince plays down his firm’s plans in the security realm. “We are not there to provide military training. We are not there to provide security per se. Most of that security”—say, if an oil pipeline or mining camp needs protection—”would be done by whatever local services are there,” including police and private firms. “We don’t envision setting up a whole bunch of local guard services around the continent.”
So the former Blackwater chief won’t employ guys with guns? Well, he says, “that would be the exception, certainly not the rule.”

I should remind the reader that Prince could easily contract the services of other security firms to help in security.  That would mean using Academi or any of the offshoots of his older company. But like he mentioned in the quote, using local police or security firms is more than likely the path, which is already what most Chinese investors and companies are doing.

Although the problem with this arrangement is if those local forces are dependable? Can they deliver services on time and under budget, or is it even a good service? Can they provide high level PSD services for the engineers and workers for those companies? That is where PMSC’s like Blackwater would come in. Also, someone needs to manage those local forces, or look out for the best interest of the client.

I am quickly reminded of the In Amenas gas plant attack in Algeria and how depending upon incompetent local security forces (provided by the government) was a contributing reason why the attack was so successful. You must have a competent security company watching over the local security force that companies are either forced to use, or use because of cost and choice. I look at it from a concentric rings of security view point, and your outer layer should be your least dependable force and your final ring of security should be your most dependable. Ideally all rings are dependable in a perfect world, but that just does not happen in the real world. Another way to put it, is you need security you can ‘trust’.

But back to the articles below, I think this quote speaks pretty loudly as to why dependable and highly capable services are in such high demand in Africa.

“If you’re drilling in some remote area and your rig goes down and you need a new part for your rig; that’s 10s if not 100s of thousands of dollars a day. How do you get that thing quickly and with no excuses?”

Time is money as they say, and guys like Prince can absolutely organize an effort to get that part or human out there.

This also reminds me of another potential problem for companies. What if their equipment gets caught up in a mess like what the Arab Spring has created in the Middle East? For that, a guy like Prince could organize the effort to secure equipment and people until it can be either flown out or convoyed out of that mess.  Those types of contracts remind me of what helped put Executive Outcomes on the map.

I am talking about the Ranger Oil contract that Executive Outcomes had in Angola. Basically things became unstable there and Heritage Oil and Gas turned to EO to save some equipment caught up in the mess. At the time, they were leasing some drilling equipment that was costing over $20,000 a day, and UNITA would not allow the company to get the equipment out of there. EO was contracted to secure that equipment, which they did.

It is also important to note that the Chinese account for the largest group of people kidnapped in Africa. I have talked about this demand for protective services by the Chinese in the past, and how the South African PMSC market has been filling that niche. Lot’s of money being spent on some risky projects–hence the need for security and folks who know what they are doing.

As long as we are talking about money, it is also interesting to pluck some of the quotes that discuss why Africa is so interesting to Prince. China is investing billions into development and resource extraction there.

Mr. Prince won’t share any revenue projections, but his prospectus notes that “China is Africa’s largest trading partner,” with annual flows of $125 billion. Most estimates put that figure closer to $200 billion, a meteoric increase from $10 billion in 2000 and $1 billion in 1980. The U.S., which was Africa’s top trade partner until 2009, registered $100 billion in annual African exchange at last count. China-Africa trade could reach $385 billion by 2015, according to Standard Chartered Bank.

Not only that, but the US is also delving more and more into Africa with it’s military ventures. So Prince is basically gunning to be the logistics and transportation ‘go to guy’ for Africa. If US strategy includes getting more involved with Africa, it will need companies in place that can provide a need wherever it presents itself.

Although he does have some competition, because there are numerous larger companies  that have already been working that angle in Africa. PMSC’s in Somalia and their support of AMISOM are one example. There is still room though, and investors are looking for folks that they trust can do the job. That is a key point here, because Prince has shown capability in the past by making things happen, and putting his money where his mouth is. He spent over 100 million on new products and services when he owned BW, and much of it never reached fruition. But some did, and really paid off for him. I imagine he will do the same with this company. This quote shows why investors would be drawn to him and what has provoked Prince to get into this market in the first place.

“As I was moving around Asia trying to raise money for this private equity fund, a lot of the big investors said, ‘It’s great that you want to be a fund manager, but what we really need you to do is to build a business like you had before. Not a defence services business, but one that can help us operate in the challenging areas and take away a lot of the uncertainty’.”

Pretty cool and I imagine he will apply the same mindset to this business as he did with BW. Research the region, find services that are lacking or non-existent but are needed, or see a coming need for a product or service, and create that service or product to meed those needs. That is how he built BW, and that is probably how he will build this company.

As to what kinds of aircraft he will purchase and bring to the market, who knows?  If you look at the aircraft that AAR has (former Presidential Airways and BW business unit), you can get an idea as to the kind of aircraft Prince might introduce into the game. Here is a quick run down from wikipedia as to what they have used.

Presidential operates CASA C-212 and CASA CN-235 turboprops. Recent contracts have added de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprop aircraft to the fleet. The company also operates turbine powered helicopters including Bell 214ST, Bell 412, MD Helicopters MD-530, Eurocopter/Aerospatiale SA 330J “Puma”, and Sikorsky S-61 rotorcraft.

The key for Prince is to invest in aircraft that can carry a lot, has robust fuel capacity, is durable, and can land on the really crappy air strips throughout Africa. The parts need to be cheap as well. I am sure he will find something that fits the bill. Either way, we will keep on eye on this. –Matt

Edit 04/02/2014: It looks like DVN (or it’s new name Frontier Services Group Limited) has acquired another percentage of an airline that operates out of Wilson Airport. Here is a clip from the news story about it.

News broke yesterday in Nairobi that DVN had apparently acquired a 49 percent stake in Phoenix Aviation which is based at Wilson Airport in Nairobi and engages in aircraft charters and aircraft maintenance, among other aviation services. First it was Kijipwa Aviation, based in Kilifi, a relatively small aviation company, in which DVN acquired a 49 percent stake in late February, then announcing that they were to bring on line as many as two dozen additional aircraft to boost the operational capacity of the firm. However, the acquisition of a similar share in Phoenix may change those plans as suggestions have been floated already among the aviation fraternity at Wilson Airport that the operations of the two local airlines may be consolidated or aligned under one umbrella or at least they will be working under one central command. While DVN reportedly dished out some 1.2 billion Kenya shillings to acquire the 49 percent stake in Phoenix, no confirmed value could be obtained for the acquisition of the Kijipwa shares. Both investments have been linked to the discovery of significant oil deposits in Kenya and the apparent need of international oil exploration companies to contract a range of services from local Kenyan companies, including aviation.

Frontier Resource Group website here.

Frontier Services Group website here.

 

 

Beyond Blackwater: Prince looks to resources in Africa
Photo
Sun, Feb 2 2014
By Stephen Eisenhammer
After running one of the world’s biggest and most controversial private military groups, Blackwater founder Erik Prince is starting a new venture providing logistics for oil and mining companies in remote and dangerous parts of Africa.
China is increasingly looking to Africa to meet its ever growing demand for natural resources. Trade between the two reached an estimated $200 billion (121 billion pounds) this year. With 85 percent of Chinese imports from the continent being oil or minerals, Prince sees an opportunity.
He wants to use his experience of getting people and equipment in and out of remote places, where there is little or no infrastructure, to help companies looking to exploit abundant natural resources in places like Sudan or Somalia.
The 44-year-old former U.S. Navy Seal became chairman of Frontier Services Group (FSG) this month, a Hong Kong-listed company of which China’s state-backed investment fund Citic owns 15 percent. Prince himself has share options in the firm that would convert to a 9 percent stake.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Industry Talk: Pseudo Operations And The Relentless Pursuit Of Kony

But then she reminds herself of the numbers. In the past two years, L.R.A. violence has dropped by ninety-three per cent, from seven hundred and six killings in 2010 to only fifty-one in 2012. According to Resolve, a U.S.-based analysis and advocacy group, the L.R.A. had approximately four hundred fighters in 2010; by June, 2013, they were down to a hundred and eighty Ugandan fighters and fifty armed zande—abductees from Congo and the Central African Republic.
“It was only ninety-three per cent because of relentless pursuit,” Davis said. “If we pulled out, that would plummet. I know that is something to celebrate. And if Kony dies a natural death under a mango tree someday, I’m O.K. with that—I know he’ll see justice, as long as he is not hurting kids and women.”
“We don’t need accolades,” Davis told me. “We are not bleeding at the end of the spear, getting pursued by crocodiles and killer bees. The Ugandans are.” And they show no signs of letting up.

Thanks to Adam for sending this one, and a big congrats to Eeben Barlow and his team for all the work they did on this contract. Also, I have much respect for Shannon Sedgwick Davis and her crew for actually taking action and having the courage to contact Eeben and funding this contract. You did the right thing. A hat tip as well to the Ugandan forces who embraced this training and made it work for them out in the field.

What makes this story significant is the fact that pseudo operations was taught to the Ugandan military by a private company, and there are actual tangible results that we can point to after they received this training.  Although I wouldn’t mind seeing a more academic study applied to how much of  an impact pseudo operations really had, it would seem to me that these initial findings are encouraging.

The other really cool aspect of this story is that for those of you that follow the blog and read the discussions I had with Eeben Barlow a couple of years ago about the concept of pseudo operations here and here,  you will quickly realize that in fact, something positive did come about from those conversations. That someone reading those conversations and posts over at his blog, whom actually had the money to fund such a contract, came forth and embraced the idea for the relentless pursuit of Joseph Kony and the destruction of his LRA. Here is a quote referencing how this group came to Eeben via his blog.

Poole had been reading a military and security blog written by Eeben Barlow, who had been a commando and a covert agent for the South African apartheid regime’s most notorious squads. He was also a visionary and a dreamer. Back in 1997, he told me that his goal was to create the best and biggest military consultancy in the world. The private army he founded, Executive Outcomes, hired itself out, in the late nineties, to end civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola in exchange for lots of cash and access to diamond and oil fields.
Davis went to meet Barlow in South Africa, and, after a family dinner with his wife and son, he told her he would take the job—and that he did not want a fee. He did not want to make money on this, he told her; she would just have to pay his trainers and underwrite his expenses. This was the kind of partner she was looking for.

 Pretty cool. Here is a quote about the pseudo operations training the Ugandan’s received.

The effects of the training were evident. Charles, a lieutenant from West Nile, told me that in the old days they would unleash a thousand bullets every time they encountered the L.R.A. Now, he said, they would wait and track in silence. The South Africans had taught them tactics for crossing rivers with logs and ponchos, how to swim and how to avoid crocodiles, which had killed one soldier and attacked another. “The South Africans taught us ‘pseudo,’ ” Charles said. “You behave like your enemy so you can approach him, or even infiltrate inside the camp. We pleated our hair like they do, put on civilian shirts, uniform pants. Sometimes we went barefoot. We used to travel forty or forty-five in a team; now we can go six.”

Here is the quote about the raid that missed Kony. It certainly hit intel pay dirt though!

In September, 2011, the first special-operations group trained by the South Africans crossed into South Sudan and caught Kony by surprise at a meeting with all his commanders. He escaped, but the Ugandans took back a haul of valuable intelligence: satellite phones, a computer, and diaries. Defectors later revealed that the L.R.A. fighters were baffled by the attack: Was this some new Ugandan army? After the raid, Kony lost contact with his entourage. He roamed the bush alone with one of his pregnant Sudanese wives, and helped deliver her baby—one of probably more than a hundred small Konys now in the world. When he reëmerged, he was so furious that he demoted all his commanders. According to defectors, he had moved to a new camp, in southern Darfur.

And this is what DoS thought about the whole thing.

By the end of 2011, Barlow and his trainers were gone. “Even folks at State and the Department of Defense acknowledged the training Bridgeway offered was very helpful in advancing the Ugandan Army’s capacity,” a Washington-based analyst told me. But they are not yet willing to say so publicly. When I asked a State Department official about the significance of Davis’s work, he refused to comment beyond noting that “the Bridgeway Foundation is an independent organization that does not have an official relationship with the U.S. government.”

So with that said, I think Eeben and his crew deserve a great deal of recognition and thanks for a job well done. He has proven once again that private industry can indeed produce amazing results through innovation, dedication and hard work. That pseudo operations or PO can be taught and it can be effective in some types of warfare. As Sun Tzu would say, ‘all warfare is based on deception’, and PO is an excellent deceptive tactic. –Matt

 

Shannon Sedgwick Davis.

 

How a Texas Philanthropist Helped Fund the Hunt for Joseph Kony
October 21, 2013
Posted by Elizabeth Rubin

One night in July, 2010, Shannon Sedgwick Davis, a lawyer and activist from San Antonio, Texas, and the mother of two young boys, found herself seated across from the chief of the Ugandan Army, General Aronda Nyakairima, at his hilltop headquarters, in Kampala. “It was one of those out-of-body experiences,” Davis told me. Davis was on the verge of becoming deeply involved in the campaign to capture Joseph Kony. In the course of a quarter century, Kony abducted tens of thousands of people, mostly children, and conscripted them into the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.), which was conceived as a Ugandan rebel force but whose primary target has been civilians in several African nations. “I am a full-blown mom, sitting here with this Ugandan general,” Davis said. “And I can’t believe I have an audience with this man, and that he didn’t write me off as crazy.”
Davis had two questions for Aronda: Would military trainers and communications make it easier for the Ugandan Army to chase down Kony—who is wanted by the International Criminal Court—in the jungles of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Sudan, where he and his commanders have scattered, and, more important to her, rescue the women and children still in his clutches?
Yes and yes, said the general. His eyes looked so tired, Davis recalled, that she hadn’t been sure she had his attention. “You almost want to pry them open so you make sure he’s still listening. But he said they would welcome any assistance, and that it was their problem to solve.” It was late, and in that first meeting Aronda seemed unsure what to make of this passionate, small blond woman from Texas. But the meetings persisted. Together, they began to map out what the general wanted and the guarantees that Davis would require from the Ugandans before embarking on an unorthodox venture: the charitable organization she heads, the Bridgeway Foundation, would hire private military contractors to train an African army.

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Company Spotlight: Paramount Group Talks About Security In Africa

Below I have posted a couple of interesting stories about Paramount Group and it’s background. As you can see from it’s Wikipedia page, it is heavily involved with a lot of areas of defense in Africa and they are the largest PMSC in Africa. So when Ivor Ichikowitz (the founder and executive chairperson of the company) talks about private security in Africa, I tend to listen.

I also posted a side deal about an aircraft they donated to help in the war against Rhino poachers. This is a great move by the company because poachers are destroying one of Africa’s top treasures–it’s animals. They also had a vehicle showcased in the popular TV show called Top Gear.

The last article I posted below was not about Paramount Group specifically, but about private security in Africa in general. It talked about the focus of other large companies like G4S in Africa, and it is a great compare and contrast article after reading what Paramount mentioned. If companies want to know what to focus on when delving into this market, it pays to study the market leaders of this continent. Check it out. –Matt

 

 

From the website

Paramount Group is the largest privately owned defence and aerospace business in Africa, providing fully integrated turnkey solutions to global defence, peacekeeping and internal security forces.
Since its inception in 1994, Paramount has built strong relationships with governments and government agencies in over 30 countries around the world, earning an enviable reputation as a trusted advisor in the industry.
The Group is a leading innovator in the design and development of state-of-the-art products that it manufactures in locations throughout the world.  It is partnered with some of the world’s largest and most reputable organisations in the global defence community. The Paramount Group has the ability to understand its client requirements and to use its unique knowledge and experience to design cost-effective, future-proof solutions. As a result, Paramount has enjoyed strong growth and achieved an excellent track record of delivering successful projects.

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From Wikipedia
Paramount Group is a group of companies operating in the global defence, internal security and peacekeeping industries. It was founded in South Africa in 1994 and offers a range of armoured vehicles, military aircraft, equipment and training to governments.
The company was founded by South African entrepreneur and industrialist Ivor Ichikowitz. The Group is based in South Africa, with its headquarters near Johannesburg.
Paramount Group manufactures a range of armoured vehicles – the Maverick, Mbombe, Matador and Marauder – and in 2011 unveiled AHRLAC, a long-range reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft. AHRLAC is the first aircraft to be designed and built from scratch in Africa.
The business has government clients in 28 countries and partnerships with leading international defence and aerospace players, including Aerosud Holdings Ltd, its partner in the development of AHRLAC (Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft).
In February 2011, Paramount Group announced a joint venture with Abu Dhabi – based defence business International Golden Group to market and distribute Paramount Group’s products and services in the United Arab Emirates.
Paramount Group’s Marauder featured in an episode of the BBC’s Top Gear programme. Television show presenter Richard Hammond took the vehicle on a test drive in South Africa to put the vehicle through its paces in comparison to a Humvee in a bid to find ‘the world’s toughest car.’ The programme was broadcast in July 2011.
AHRLAC was launched in September 2011 and described by commentators, including the Wall Street Journal, as filling a niche for a versatile, low-cost aircraft.

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Security Is Key To Africa’s Economic Rise
By Ivor Ichikowitz, chairman of Paramount Group, Africa’s biggest private defence company.
Ivor Ichikowitz reports
22 November 2012
The most important single factor in boosting an emerging economy is a stable state. I believe that all things flow from this.
Capitalism is the most powerful driving force behind Africa’s economic development but businesses must be able to be run without the fear of suddenly losing all their assets in unexpected or undemocratic changes in government.
Criminals, terrorists and rebel groups further undermine economic activity across the continent and need to be effectively countered. It has been estimated, for example, that over 10% of Nigeria’s oil production is stolen between source and sale by criminal gangs, including groups who tap directly into long pipelines that are extremely vulnerable to theft in isolated areas.

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Industry Talk: Erik Prince Starts Africa Focused Investment Firm With Frontier Resource Group

Prince, who credits the Navy SEALs with bringing out his entrepreneurial spirit, said there were two main risks that perhaps every businessman in Africa must face.
The first one is the political risk in some countries, and the second is the very bad transportation and infrastructure, which means a high cost of doing business there.
“If you can’t get to market cheaply enough, that’s not interesting,” Prince said.
Many foreign investors came to Africa purely for its natural resources, he said, but they forgot that transporting those resources was as important as exploring and producing them.

This is interesting news. As I mentioned before in prior posts, Africa will be a top focus for PMSC’s just because of all the business and resource extraction potential there. A company like Frontier Resource Group can easily be the company that can link the investors with those PMSC’s that could protect and insure those investments in Africa. Or at the least, FRG can help to identify those investments with the highest chance of success based on the risk assessments done by FRG.

The mention of Chinese investors partnering with FRG is key as well. I mentioned in prior posts about an increase in business for South African PMSC’s or consultants from the Chinese, and it would make sense that Prince would want to step in and serve this particular group of investors. –Matt

Website for Frontier Resource Group here.

 

Into Africa: Ex-navy SEAL sets trail for investors
November 19, 2012
By George Chen
Erik Prince of Blackwater fame has set up a company that will be the ‘search radar’ to help firms manage the risks of investing there
The man who built up Blackwater – the giant private security force that guarded US diplomats in some of the world’s most dangerous places, including Afghanistan and Iraq – sees Africa as his future.
After Erik Prince sold his firm to investors about two years ago, the former officer in the Navy SEALs – the special US military force that killed Osama bin Laden last year – set up a new company called Frontier Resource Group (FRG) early this year.
FRG is an Africa-dedicated investment firm partnered with major Chinese enterprises, including at least one state-owned resource giant that is keen to pour money into the resource-rich continent.
“Africa is so far the most unexplored part of the world, and I think China has seen a lot of promise in Africa,” Prince said during a brief trip to Hong Kong last week to meet potential Chinese investors and partners. “But the problem is if you go alone, you bear the country risk on your own. You have to get support and maintenance there,” Prince, FRG’s managing partner, told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview.

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