Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
BULAWAYO-based engineering firm, Jacob Bethel Corporation (JBC), has diversified its operations into oil and gas after clinching distribution licences for lubricants with two international giants in the energy sector.
The two global brands are Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) and Gazpromneft.
JBC, which is headquartered in Bulawayo, has also ventured into the wholesale of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and has established a 67-tonne storage facility at its plant in Belmont area.
In an interview, JBC Business Development Manager Mr Michael Mubatsa said the diversification strategy had given birth to the oil and gas division, which also encompasses bitumen.
“We have two global companies that we have entered into distributor licences with. The first one being Adnoc, a company with an annual turnover of $80 billion and the other global giant represented by its African official Partner (SA) is the Gazpromneft brand,” he said.
Mr Mubatsa said the products they were getting from their suppliers were fairly priced and of high quality.
“We are hoping that the success story of these products in our market will entice these global brands to investigate and hopefully invest in Zimbabwe in the future at a time when other global brands seem wary of Zimbabwe.
“We have also gone further to make inroads into bitumen (tar) industry. Our roads in the country need major work and we hope to provide efficient and cost effective services to our clients,” he said.
Commenting on the market response to these two brands of lubricants, Mr Mubatsa said that the brands were already a success in the market as most mining clients were already using them.
Following their alliance with Adnoc, Mr Mubatsa said Zimbabwe was probably the second country in Africa that was given the distributor licence by Adnoc and this says volumes about JBC’s vision and confidence in the future of the country.
“For us it’s a vote of confidence and a glimpse of a brighter future ahead for this nation, although we are going through turbulence,” he said.
Mr Mubatsa said dealing with Adnoc meant JBC was dealing with a global giant involved in the entire crude oil value chain hence fair pricing.
He explained how Adnoc owns the entire value chain system from extraction of crude oil to distribution and processing unlike some of the entities that were not into crude oil mining.
The Bulawayo headquartered company had in stock the entire range of lubricants including light motor industry products.
Mr Mubatsa would not be drawn into revealing how much his organisation had invested in setting up the LPG storage facility, which at present was only at the Bulawayo city plant.
“I would not really go into the specific figure that we put through but what I would say is that it’s a figure that in this environment is not easy to come by and also it’s a figure that bears testimony to our confidence and our belief in the Zimbabwean economic revival story,” he said.
“We would not put up such a structure and conform to all the regulatory standards if we were not confident that the country at some point will come right. More than the figure, I believe it is a statement of intent; it is a statement that we may be going through some storms as a nation but at a point in time we will weather the storms.”
Mr Mubatsa said JBC was there to work with its valued clients particularly in these difficult times through offering quality products at fair pricing.
“In such a tough environment we are committed to fair pricing and quality products. We want to make sure that our clients are able to at least derive value from their hard earned cash.
“Again, being in Bulawayo bears testimony of the comfort we have in the City of Kings. The Southern region has been home to JBC for decades and we treasure the support we have received hence the decision to first setup the LPG footprint in Bulawayo,” he said.
Mr Mubatsa said diversifying into LPG was largely driven by the fact that global usage of gas was on the rise and in the next few years it was projected that much of the domestic heating would be done using LPG.
Against this background, he said, his organisation was trying to conscientise and educate the market that LPG is a safe product to use.
“The only thing that you have to do with LPG is making sure that your installations are right and also buy reputable products. If you do it the right way then LP Gas is safe for use,” he said.
On the engineering side, JBC has supported the mining industry and other heavy industries with the servicing and supply of integral drill steel, taper steel, impregnated diamond, crowns and reamer shells, extension equipment, diamond drilling machines, roof support products, belt fasteners, coal processing equipment, crushing and conveying equipment, and mineral processing equipment, among others.