By Morten Rønning
In 1989, Ticon participated in establishing the company Chaine de Froid Regionale S.A. Benin. The company bought herring and mackerel caught in international waters. The frozen fish was intended as cheap protein for the population in Benin. The company also intended to establish their own distribution network.
But the project, which received more than 13 million NOK in support from NORAD, went down the drain.
According to Kristian Falck Pedersen, executive director of Ticon A/S, there were mainly three causes of the failure. First of all, the project suffered chaos and corruption by the authorities.
– I actually believed Benin was on its way to becoming a law abiding society. You can meet individuals in the system who are decent, but the sum of the system is tragic. The situation is about to become a classic in Africa, says Pedersen.
Secondly, Ticon got problems with its local partner, a Benin-family with competence on the production side. They did not fulfil Ticon's expectations. In addition, the cultural differences created difficulties. This was in spite of time and money spent by Ticon to find a suitable partner.
Thirdly, the project was based on imported fish which was paid for with foreign currency.
– When we experienced that the authorities devaluated with 100%, the costs for the project increased twofold. In addition, the neighbouring countries, among others Nigeria, dumped fish into Benin to considerably lower prices, and Benin had no measures to regulate this, Pedersen says.
The project was a heavy burden for Ticon to carry when the success failed to appear. For a long time, the company tried to sell its fully owned subsidiary Chaine de Froid Regionale, and in 1994 French-Cameroon interests bought the company. At that time, the company needed an entire refinancing.
Ticon lost a lot of money at the Benin project, but Pedersen can not say how much. But he maintains that no mistakes were made when the company was established.
– We did five years of studies before we started. I can not see that Ticon or NORAD made any mistakes by going into this project. NORAD has handled this very decently, says Pedersen.
Threatened with bankruptcy
The facility in Benin got 13.244.000 NOK in loans from NORAD in the period between 1989 to 1993. This money is not paid back as of today, but NORAD has given the company an extended deadline for repayment till June this year.
Cato Haugland, deputy director, in NORAD, emphasises that they will consult with the other creditors, among them the West-African development Bank BOAD, before they chose to file for bankruptcy.
– The problems in Benin were caused because the frame conditions were changed entirely; Ticon did their absolute uttermost to make things work. Conditions like the ones in Benin can not be anticipated, says Haugland.
Civil war in Angola
Things did not go well for Ticon Isolering in Angola, either. In 1990 they started the Fisheries Development Company Angola (Fideca), a fisheries project where Ticon owned 50%.
The company rented facilities from the state, and 50% of the catch, primarily mackerel, should go to the Government as payment for this. The rest was to be exported.
The problems started with the civil war in the country, and the Angolan state confiscated the entire facility in 1992/3. Ticon lost sums in the region of millions.
Ticon in Benin and Angola
In 1989, Ticon started the project Chaine de Froid Regionale together with the International Product Development. Together, these two owned around 60% of the company. The rest of the company was owned by a Benin-family. Later, Ticon took over the entire company, before they sold out in 1994.
In 1990, Ticon started the project Fisheries Development Company in Angola. They owned 50%, the partner was an Italian company which was established in Angola. The Angolan state confiscated the entire facility in 1992/3.
Norwatch Newsletter 3/96