Excited over Felda listing

This is written by my editor Francis Fernandez.

KUALA LUMPUR: "I earned RM8 a day working in a Felda settlement in Palong, Negri Sembilan," said a visibly excited Zakaria Arshad. He is excited because after years of planning, Felda is almost on its final leg of being listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.

The listing could possibly create the world's largest publicly-traded plantation company, with a staggering plantation size of 850,000ha. This even dwarfs Sime Darby Bhd's land bank of 647,373ha in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Being listed should help it come out of the shadows, as up to now, investors have always been focused on the listed Sime Darby. This is despite Felda boasting an annual crude palm oil (CPO) production of about three million tonnes as opposed to Sime Darby's 2.4 million tonnes.

Zakaria will be more than pleased than the rest in seeing Felda listed, as he currently heads one of the units which might be bundled into the listed entity. 

He is the chief executive officer of Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd, a unit of Felda Holdings Bhd.

A listed Felda will incorporate assets of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd and Felda Holdings, collectively known as Felda Global Group, the cash-generating units of the Federal Land and Development Authority (Felda).

Zakaria, who graduated in 1984 from University Sains Malaysia, also had his first big break in the job market with Felda. "I started working in Felda as an executive soon after graduating, with a starting salary of RM1,000, while the yearly increments those days were about RM75 a year," said Zakaria, who now heads a company with an annual revenue of about RM800 million a year.

"As a second-generation Felda settler, I am excited about the listing, as it will benefit the settlers and the country," he told a group of journalists at his office yesterday.

"I support the listing as it provides a new income stream for the settlers, said Zakaria, adding that as a Felda corporate man, the listing will help open up opportunities for Delima Oil. "Proceeds from the initial public offer (IPO) will help Delima Oil as we need between RM100 million and RM200 million capital expenditure to expand."

Zakaria explains that Delima Oil's sole factory in Pasir Gudang, Johor, is running at full capacity with two full shifts, churning out some 1,000 tonnes a day.

He is banking on the money from the IPO to help expand Delima Oil's product range. "Currently, we only have three products, but we intend to have as many as 18 products as well as expand into the non-food segment, such as healthcare," said Zakaria.

Established in October 2000, Delima Oil is one of the country's largest cooking oil producers, producing the cooking oil under the brand Saji. Some 80 per cent of its products are for the home market, with the balance exported to Southeast Asian countries as well as to China.

Zakaria says the IPO will help Delima Oil expand overseas faster. "Size allows us to compete, but efficiency and sound management are the key to ensure our continuous progress," he said. As such, Zakaria feels that the planned listing of Felda is a natural progression for the settler.

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