Armajaro is an investment firm based in London. The company specialises within the cocoa and coffee markets, managing investments in soft commodity and equity hedge funds. Armajaro is run by Anthony Ward and employs over 2,000 people through its subsidiary companies.
Armajaro also has investments in wine production and wine distribution as well as cocoa processing.
Armajaro employs a full-time meteorologist and has its own weather stations to help anticipate yields of commodities around the world.
Armajaro Group was founded by Anthony Ward and Richard Gower in May 1998. That November, Armajaro Securities Ltd gained Financial Services Authority authorisation. Armajaro, in 2001, acquired a wine producing estate in Paarl, South Africa. The company established subsidiaries in Lagos, Nigeria and Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and got into the asset management business in 2002.
Ward, the manager of the hedge fund, has been dubbed "CHOCFINGER" by fellow traders for his exploits. The nickname is a reference to both the Bond villain Goldfinger as well as a British confection.
In August 2002, Armajaro bought three quarters of the 204,380 tonnes of cocoa delivered through the Euronext Liffe exchange under futures contracts. The purchase amounted to more than 5 percent of global cocoa production and produced a £58 million gain. The price of cocoa soared to a 17-year high of £1554 a tonne and sparked fears of a massive jump in chocolate prices. Ward denied the company was manipulating the market in an effort to drive prices higher amidst the concerns of traders having difficulties fulfilling cocoa obligations.
Armajaro is one of three companies that were banned by the Ghana Cocoa Board from operating on the western border of Ghana after being indicted for facilitating the smuggling of cocoa across Ghana's border with Côte d'Ivoire. Armajaro was barred from trading in 13 districts in western Ghana after a journalist filmed one of its contractors agreeing to smuggle cocoa across the border to Ivory Coast where prices were higher. After the results of an inquiry by the Ghana cocoa board, the ban on Armajaro was lifted in September in all but one district. Bans on two local trading companies, which had been implicated by the same journalist, were also lifted. The case has caused additional scandal after it was revealed that the British Government had lobbied for Armajaro which was also a significant donor to the Conservative party as well as to Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary who reportedly intervened on Anthony Ward's behalf after receiving £40,000 in donations from the millionaire's company to his parliamentary office.
On 17 July 2010, Armajaro purchased 240,100 tonnes of cocoa. The buyout caused cocoa prices to rise to their highest level since 1977. The purchase was valued at £658 million and accounted for 7 per cent of annual global cocoa production (some sources call this a market corner). While cocoa beans are perishable, they can be held in storage for several years. It was reported that Armajaro sold this batch of cocoa purchase later in the year.
In November 2013, Armajaro announced the sale of its commodity trading division to ECOM Agroindustrial Corp Ltd after sustaining losses of $7.5 million in fiscal year 2012, despite $3 billion in revenue. The takeover of Armajaro's coffee, sugar and cocoa business, which was slowly completed globally over 2014, will boost ECOM's presence to compete alongside the largest global commodity firms such as Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge Limited, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Group, also known as the ABCD. The purchase comes in a period of uncertainty for commodities as sugar and coffee futures remain at stagnant lows coupled with tightening margins for cocoa due to slower demand. Armajaro Holdings will continue ownership of its commodity focused hedge funds under Armajaro Asset Management LLP.
St Vincent Cocoa Company
In August 2011, Armajaro Trading Ltd signed an agreement with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines aiming to establish a sustainable cocoa industry on the island. Armajaro has set up a subsidiary company in the country – the St Vincent Cocoa Company Ltd. The agreement (until 2061) intends to develop a viable cocoa industry through investment by both parties, with up to 2000 ha planted with cocoa and production between 2500 – 3000 tonnes per year.
Armajaro will provide credit to farmers, build infrastructure and invest in training of farmers, and in return will have exclusive rights to buy, sell and market all cocoa produced in the country. The government will invest in irrigation and road infrastructure, and will grant tax and import exemptions to the company for 15 years.
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- Sibun, Jonathan; Wallop, Harry (17 July 2010). "Mystery trader buys all Europe's cocoa". The Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
- Alexandra Wexler, Leslie Josephs (11 November 2013), "Armajaro Sells Trading Arm to Ecom Agroindustrial", The Wall Street Journal, Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Marcy Nicholson (11 November 2013), "Armajaro selling loss-making commodity trade arm to Ecom", Reuters, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Isis Almeida (12 November 2013), "Armajaro Trading Sold to Ecom After Loss of $7.6 Million", Bloomberg, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "MoU between Armajaro and SVG government". Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- Fletcher, Pascal (16 November 2011). "Caribbean's St. Vincent looks to cash in on cocoa". Reuters. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- Horne, Kenville. "Cocoa rehabilitation programme takes first step". The Vincentian. Retrieved 30 October 2013.