Predictably, South Africa dominates the list of Africa’s top ten companies by market cap, filling the top nine positions. Last year was tough for the continent’s biggest companies, with even those that top the list seeing sizeable falls in value.
This has been attributed to fears of a double-dip recession in the industrialised world, as well as ongoing insecurity in Nigeria and political winds of change in North Africa. Yet this year is generally expected to see a rise in the values of Africa’s listed firms, as growth prospects remain buoyant while the global economy has shown signs of an ongoing recovery.
This article takes us through the ten most valuable companies on the African continent, incorporating both companies listed on African stock exchanges and companies of African origin listed on other bourses.
Mining and metals firm BHP Billiton leads the way with market capitalisation of $71.5 billion, although this figure represents a big fall on last year’s $99.4 billion. BHP Billiton is the world’s largest diversified natural resources company. It is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and has 40,990 employees working in over 100 operations in 25 countries. The company occupies significant positions in major commodity businesses, including aluminium, energy coal and metallurgical coal, copper, manganese, iron ore, uranium, nickel, silver and titanium minerals, and have substantial interests in oil, gas, liquefied natural gas and diamonds. BHP Billiton was created through the Dual Listed Companies (DLC) merger of BHP Limited (now BHP Billiton Limited) and Billiton Plc (now BHP Billiton Plc), which was concluded on 29 June 2001. BHP Billiton Limited and BHP Billiton Plc continue to exist as separate companies, but operate on a combined basis as BHP Billiton.
Anglo American is another mining and metals firm leading the way in Africa, with market capitalisation of $54 billion, again down from $77.2 billion the year before. Three of Anglo American’s mining businesses are based in South Africa: Platinum, Kumba Iron Ore and Thermal Coal, with the former two also appearing in the top ten list of companies in Africa. The company holds advantageous positions in the most structurally attractive commodities, but have taken steps to concentrate on their core mining portfolio. This has involved a series of divestments, including the demerger of the Mondi Group and the sale of our shareholdings in AngloGold Ashanti, Highveld Steel and Vanadium, Namakwa Sands, Tongaat Hulett and Hulamin.
The South African Breweries (Pty) Ltd. (SAB), South Africa’s leading producer and distributor of lager and soft drinks, was one of the few companies to not see its value plummet between 2010 and 2011, holding firm at $35 billion. It exports brands for distribution across Namibia and its soft drinks division is South Africa’s leading producer of products for The Coca-Cola Company. The company also has hotel and gaming interests through its associate Tsogo Sun Holdings Ltd, the largest hotel and gaming group in South Africa.
Despite a modest fall in value to $32 billion, Sasol Ltd retains fourth spot in the list. The company is involved in mining, energy, chemicals and synfuels. In particular, they produce petrol and diesel profitably from coal and natural gas using Fischer-Tropsch process. The company has factories at Sasolburg and Secunda and has taken a stake in projects under construction in Qatar (Oryx GTL), Iran (Arya Polymers) and Nigeria (Escravos GTL). Sasol Limited, the holding company of the Sasol group, is jointly listed on the Johannesburg and New York stock exchanges.
Valued at $29.5 billion, MTN Group is a multinational telecommunications group offering voice and data communications products and services in 21 countries, connecting over 120 million people across Africa and the Middle East. It also has internet service provider businesses in 13 countries. Its 35,000 employees communicate in 5 official languages and represent 35 nationalities. It has made investments in fibre optic cables as well as growing access to broadband capacity on undersea cables. MTN predominantly uses independently owned outlets to distribute its products and services, but also has its own branded stores.
Kumba Iron Ore
Kumba, a member of the Anglo American plc Group, is a leading supplier of seaborne iron ore. In 2010 Kumba exported over 36.1Mt of superior iron ore to customers in a range of geographical locations around the globe including China, Japan, Korea and a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East. Its market capitalisation stood at $19.4 billion in 2011. It is the fourth largest iron ore producer in the world and the largest in Africa.
Standard Bank Group
One of South Africa’s largest financial services groups, Standard Bank operates in 30 countries around the world, including 18 in Africa. It is valued at $16.4 billion. The bank was formed in 1862 as a South African subsidiary of the British overseas bank Standard Bank, under the name Standard Bank of South Africa. Standard Bank Group is listed on the JSE Limited and the Namibian Stock Exchange. Normalised headline earnings for 2011 were R13,600 billion ($1.9 billion), total assets were over 1.497 billion rand (approximately $185 billion) and the bank employed approximately 52,000 people across all geographies. Standard Bank has 1,222 branches, including loan centres, and 7,945 ATMs on the African continent.
Anglo American Platinum
Another branch of the Anglo American Plc Group, Anglo American Platinum has a market cap of $14.3 billion. It is the world’s leading primary producer of platinum group metals (PGMs) and accounts for about 40 per cent of the world’s newly mined platinum. The Company is listed on the JSE Limited and has its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.
FirstRand, with a market capitalisation of $14 billion, provides banking and insurance products and services to retail, commercial, corporate and public sector customers in South Africa and several African countries. The group has its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, with subsidiaries in five neighbouring Southern African countries, as well as in Australia and India. It is rated as one of the five largest banking groups in South Africa and Africa. The First Rand Group was established in 1998, from a business that started in the 1970s as an investment bank.
Itissalat Al Maghrib
Itissalat Al Maghrib (formerly known as Maroc Telecom Itissalat Al Maghrib) is a Morocco-based company primarily engaged in the provision of telecommunications services. Its portfolio of products includes fixed line telephones, mobile telephones, as well as Internet services. It offers solutions for individual customers, professionals and businesses. Maroc Telecom operates through its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Gabon Telecom, Onatel SA, Casanet, Mauritel, and Sotelma, among others. It has a value of $13.8 billion.
By Tom Jackson