HISTORY OF BAKER PERKINS IN AFRICA
Following the finalisation of the merger of Joseph Baker & Sons and Perkins Engineers in 1920 it was soon decided that export sales would continue to be an important part of the new company’s business. Arrangements were made to cover the home market, Continental Europe, Australasia and South America with permanent salesmen whilst South Africa, India and the Far East were to receive frequent visits by representatives from England.
Prior to WW2, Bradley and Bowman Ltd of Johannesburg had been Baker Perkins’ agents with engineers trained to install and service all of the machinery they sold. In 1946, all of the equity in Bradley & Bowman was acquired by Baker Perkins and, three years, later the name was changed to Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) Ltd. The company undertook significant levels of local manufacture to meet the growing demands of the market. Baker Perkins South Africa also operated in the various neighbouring countries without having a physical presence there.
Baker Perkins Holdings Ltd made major changes in 1968 to the way in which responsibility for its overseas operations was organised. The objective was to make greater specialised knowledge available to the group and to the markets. The group’s activities were re-organised on a geographical basis with the world outside the UK divided into six regions. The continent of Africa came under a new grouping known as AIME – Africa, India and Middle East region - which was headquartered in London under H.S. Hargreaves. In 1971, this grouping was formed into a separate company – Baker Perkins AIME Ltd – with H. Childerley as chairman and managing director.
The massive increase in world oil prices imposed by OPEC in the early 1970’s created big opportunities in the oil producing countries but it was not just a matter of hopping on a plane and taking an order –
In 1975, Baker Perkins was awarded a £3.5m order for biscuit, wafer, cakes and chocolate plant from SEMPAC Algeria. The contract took 5 years to negotiate. Work on winning this order started back in 1970, when Baker Perkins sales representatives and technicians began negotiations with an Algerian Government agency known as SNERI, which was responsible for engineering and implementing major projects in the country. At that time, Baker Perkins was negotiating in partnership with the civil engineering contractors CJB Ltd.
After discussions which continued for two years, the Algerians decided to use their own civil engineering facilities and the British contractors, therefore, withdrew, leaving Baker Perkins to try and win the process equipment contract. Technical, contractual and financial negotiations were going well when, in the third quarter of 1973 there was a re-organisation of Algerian Government agencies and Baker Perkins found itself with a new organisation and a new set of people to deal with. S.N. Sempac, who were to be the users of the equipment, took over the negotiations in liaison with the Algerian Ministry of Industry and Energy. Discussions with representatives of both these organisations continued throughout 1974 until the signature on the contract was obtained at the end of that year. There was still a period of some 90 days for all the details to be finalised before news of the contract could be made public.
Paul Parkinson, the biscuit division export sales manager at the time, described the negotiations as –
“Some of the longest and toughest I have ever been associated with. Apart from the length of the negotiations, they were conducted entirely in French and we were dealing with two Algerian Government organisations, two different banks and our own British authorities. It was slow and often frustrating work, but it represents a magnificent team effort by all those in the company who were concerned with winning the order”.
Some idea of the amount of work involved can be judged by the size of the contract and technical specifications which jointly ran to well over 300 pages. In the final negotiations the Baker Perkins contracting team spent a continuous eight-week period in Algeria. Baker Perkins people were on site in Algeria until 1979 while the plant was installed and commissioned for the contract included Baker Perkins know-how and production technology.
At the end of 1979, Iain Davidson became responsible for the SEMPAC order with Peter Dodd and reporting to Paul Parkinson in Peterborough. Iain remembers - "Baker Perkins didn’t install the equipment since Peter and I spent over a year to negotiate a new contract for installation and commissioning, which ultimately did not go ahead as there was no foreign exchange to pay for it. One of the biscuit lines was later installed by the Algerians (installed under the supervision of an engineer called Yahia Belhadj, who was trained by Baker Perkins and later joined the company".
Nigeria’s oil also made it attractive as a potential market and orders for the first two 1.2 metres wide biscuit plants to go to Nigeria were obtained in 1975. They were to be installed in Lagos alongside three other plants supplied earlier by Baker Perkins. In total, Baker Perkins supplied probably more than 30 lines. At one time this represented up to 30% of the division’s annual budget.
In 1980 the Southern sub-group was formed to combine the Australasian sub-group and Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) Ltd. Local manufacture was given greater prominence and the sale of bakery plant centred round the Australian 440 tray oven with the larger plants being imported, the largest plant installed being capable of producing 5000 loaves per hour. By this time, Werner and Pfleiderer were importing tunnel oven plants at highly competitive prices and gaining a foothold in the industry. Baker Perkins unit machines were still highly regarded and the sales of Accurist Dividers in South Africa alone more than matched the combined sales to the rest of the world, including the U.K.
Baker Perkins acquired Pavailler Equipment SA, France in March 1980 as part of the move to develop a broader presence in the international bakery machinery market. Pavailler SA designed and manufactured in France and Italy a range of machinery and ovens for small "artisan" bakeries. – specialising in the production of French bread, particularly the "baguette", and also had a substantial export business to Africa and the Middle East. Pavailler brought with them into the group their subsidiary, Pavailler Algerie SARL.
Baker Perkins Group Sales by Region
In 1982, the last year in which figures were split at this level, the sales by geographical area were as follows:
1983 saw the first orders being obtained for Baker Perkins biscuit plant in two French speaking West African countries. The first, in the Ivory Coast, was to produce biscuits similar to those already being made by CIPA of Abidjan but the second was for a new company setting up in Niamey, Niger. Both orders were obtained against strong competition form other international biscuit suppliers. Lines of biscuit plant were also sold in Tunisia, Marocco, Senegal and to the private industry in Algeria.
The buoyancy of the South African laundry market continued and on the 18th March 1983 an agreement was signed between Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) and Laundraland (Pty) Ltd. under which it was agreed that the laundry and dry cleaning machinery and domestic appliance distribution business carried out by both companies would be merged in a new company to be known as Baker Perkins Laundraland (Pty) Ltd., which in the present century is still in operation in under that name. In 1984, another new company, Poliva Sales, was formed to market consumable goods in the South African dry-cleaning industry.
Previously, Baker Perkins had shown little interest in the South African shop bakery market. Against all advice, a belated attempt was made to get into this growing sector by bringing together a few minor companies and floating a new company, Norbake (Pty) Ltd. It was a case of too little too late. By then other companies, specialising in unit machines, had become firmly established in the market. They were manufacturing locally and had creamed off the representation of the choice European manufacturers.
1986 – Closure of Baker Perkins SA (Pty) Ltd.
For individual histories of each of the group subsidiaries in the area see:
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