Olam International

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Olam International Limited
Public company
Traded as SGX: O32
Industry Food processing
Founded Nigeria (1989 (1989))
Headquarters Singapore, Singapore
Key people
  • Kwa Chong Seng (Chairman)
  • Sunny George Verghese (CEO)
Revenue Decrease S$19,421.8 million (2014)[1]
Decrease S$1,168.8 million (2014)[1]
Increase S$641.272 million (2014)[1]
Total assets Increase S$16,306.593 million (2014)[1]
Total equity Increase S$4,222,328 million (2014)[1]
Number of employees
25,000 (2015)[1]
Website olamgroup.com

Olam International is a leading and the third largest agri-business in the world, operating from seed to shelf in 70 countries, supplying food and industrial raw materials to over 16,200 customers worldwide.[2] Olam is one of the world’s largest suppliers of cocoa beans and products, coffee, cotton and rice. [3]


Since it was established in 1989, Olam has evolved from a single-product, single-country geography, to a multi-product, multi-national, agri-business today, with 62,500 employees, contract, seasonal and temporary workers from 70 different nationalities.

In 1989, the Kewalram Chanrai Group established Olam Nigeria Plc to set up a non-oil based export operation out of Nigeria to secure hard currency earnings to meet the foreign exchange requirements of the other Group Companies operating in Nigeria. The success of this operation resulted in Olam establishing an independent export operation and sourcing and exporting other agricultural products. The Group's agri-business was headquartered in London and operated under the name of Chanrai International Limited. The business began with the export of cashews from Nigeria and then expanded into exports of cotton, cocoa and sheanuts from Nigeria.

Move to Singapore[edit]

By the start of 1993, Olam recognised patterns and in the skills and capabilities required to participate in agricultural production and distribution in many different product markets. Between 1993 and 1995, the business grew from a single operation into multiple origins, first within West Africa (including Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon and Gabon), and then to East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Madagascar) and then India. The move into multiple origin countries coincided with the deregulation of the agricultural commodity markets.

Olam International Limited was incorporated in Singapore on 4 July 1995 as a public limited company. In 1996, at the invitation of the Singapore Trade Development Board (now International Enterprise Singapore), Olam relocated their entire operations from London to Singapore. Furthermore, the Singapore Government awarded Olam the Approved International Trader status (now called the Global Trader Programme) under which Olam was granted a concessionary tax rate of 10%, which was subsequently reduced, in 2004, to 5%. On relocation to Singapore, the Group's agri-business was reorganised to be wholly owned by Olam International Limited in Singapore.

During this phase, Olam established sourcing and marketing operations in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Papua New Guinea, Middle East, Central Asia and Brazil.


In 2002, Russell AIF Singapore Investments Limited (managed by AIF Capital limited), became the first external investor to take an equity stake in the company. In 2003, Temasek Holdings, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Seletar Investments, took a stake in Olam, followed by International Finance Corporation (IFC).

2005 marked a key point in Olam's history. After nearly a decade as a highly successful private company, Olam International Limited was listed on the Main Board of the Singapore Exchange on 11 February 2005. Temasek made a strategic investment in Olam in 2009. As of December 2014, following a Voluntary General Offer[4] it holds close to 51.4% of Olam.[5] In 2015 Mitsubishi Corporate acquired a shareholding of 20% making them the second largest shareholder.

The Management Team of Olam has a significant shareholding in the company approximating 6.4%[6] in the total issued share capital, which greatly aligns shareholder and management interests in creating value. Olam's free float owned by public shareholders accounts for approximately 22.2% of the total issued share capital.[5]

Post IPO[edit]

Olam is active in the supply chain management of agricultural raw materials and food ingredients. With operations across more than 70 countries, Olam supplies 44 agri-products and markets them to over 14,000 customers with a global employee strength of 26,000.[7]

In 2010, Olam International discussed a possible merger with one of its main competitors, i.e. the Geneva-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities, the world's largest cotton and rice trading company. This idea was given-up early 2011, as the two parties could not find an agreement on the details of such a potential merger.

Olam announced in July 2013 that it would sell its cotton assets in Zimbabwe, with the preferred buyer being a private equity company.[8]

Deforestation-Linked Palm Oil and Rubber[edit]

Between 2011 and 2015, Olam’s palm oil trade volume grew by approximately twenty times—from 71,000 tons to 1.53 million tons.[9] Despite Olam’s stated commitment to RSPO-certified palm oil, the company shunned transparency as it expanded its palm oil production.[10][11]

A report[12] released by the NGO Mighty Earth and Gabon-based NGO Brainforest on December 12, 2016 revealed that Olam was operating a secretive palm oil trading operation worldwide, particularly with its third party suppliers in Asia. Olam was accused of endangering the forest habitats of gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants due to widespread deforestation. [13] It was revealed that in Gabon Olam had cut 26,000 ha of forest for palm oil.[14]

The photos and videos featured in the NGO report show Olam bulldozing Gabonese rainforests for rubber and to establish what they intended to build as Africa’s largest palm oil plantation. The analysis found that in Gabon Olam cleared approximately 26,000 hectares of forest across its four palm oil concessions since 2012[15][16][17][18] and additional forests for rubber.

The two NGOs also documented Olam’s cutting down an area the size of Washington DC in what had been an intact forest landscape in Northern Gabon, for rubber in Gabon.[19]

On December 16, 2016, shortly after the report was released, Mighty Earth submitted a formal complaint against Olam to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for Olam’s deforestation and for violating FSC policies.[20] In response to these allegations, on February 21, 2017, Olam suspended further land clearing of forests in Gabon for at least a year.[21] As a result, Mighty Earth suspended its campaign.[22][23][24][25][26]

Muddy Waters allegations[edit]

In November 2012, Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research accused Olam of "deciding to take huge leverage and invest in illiquid positions",[27] questioning its accounting practices and accusing its board of an "abject failure of leadership".[28] Olam called the allegations "baseless rumour-mongering" and sued Block for libel,[29][30] but its shares nevertheless fell 21%.[27]

Forced Evictions and Land Clearance in Laos[edit]

The company is involved in the production of coffee in Laos and the clearance of forests and villages to plant large plantations. Areas of land that were acquired by the company were previously inhabited and farmed by villagers who had paid their land taxes and were also farming coffee alongside other products.[31] Compensation was only partly paid, with many evicted landholders being paid only in rice. Many landholders are now facing challenges to grow enough food to survive. This development of large industrial plantations at the sacrifice of the small holding family unit is argued by some to be counterproductive to the development of Laos; as it reduces the overall agricultural productivity; and increases poverty amongst the families, while a few officials and the company benefit.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Financial Statements for the Fourth Quarter and Full Year Ended 30 June 2014" (PDF). Olam International Limited. 29 August 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Olam Group Website 
  3. ^ "Products & Services - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  4. ^ Voluntary Unconditional Cash Offer: Close of the Offer, Dealings Disclosure and Final Level of Acceptances for 23 May 2014 
  5. ^ a b Shareholding Structure 
  6. ^ "Shareholding Structure - Olam". Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  7. ^ http://olamgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Olam-Annual-Report-2014-Our-Heritage.pdf
  8. ^ Olam to Sell Zim Assets, Africa: AllAfrica.com, 2013 
  9. ^ "RSPO Progress Report 2015, Olam International" (PDF). 
  10. ^ The Rainforest Foundation UK. Seeds of Destruction Report. February 2013.http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/media.ashx/seedsofdestructionfebruary2013.pdf
  11. ^ "Ag Commodities Giant Agrees to Stop Deforestation in Africa". Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit. 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  12. ^ "Palm Oil's Black Box" (PDF). December 2016. 
  13. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  14. ^ "Palm oil giant defends its deforestation in Gabon, points to country's 'right to develop'". news.mongabay.com. Retrieved 2017-06-29. 
  15. ^ Selby, Gaynor (12 Dec 2016). "Olam Linked to Palm Oil Related Deforestation in Scathing New Report". Food Ingredients First. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  16. ^ Shah, Vaidehi (12 Dec 2016). "Green groups and Olam at loggerheads over deforestation". Eco Business. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  17. ^ Fogarty, David (13 Dec 2016). "Olam denies charges of destroying Gabon forest". Straits Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  18. ^ "Palm oil giant Olam accused over sourcing". BBC News. 2016-12-12. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  19. ^ Mighty Earth and Brainforest Gabon. Submission to the FSC: Olam Rubber Gabon - Deforestation the past five years. 2016. http://www.mightyearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Olam-Rubber-Gabon.pdf
  20. ^ "Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  21. ^ "Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 2017-06-29. 
  22. ^ Soh, Andrea. "Olam to pause land clearing in Gabon in truce with Mighty Earth". The Business Times. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  23. ^ "Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  24. ^ "BRIEF-Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate". Reuters. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  25. ^ "Olam to pause forest clearing in Gabon in truce with Mighty Earth". AsiaOne. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  26. ^ hermesauto (2017-02-22). "Olam, US green group agree to collaborate on forest conservation and sustainable agriculture". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  27. ^ a b "Olam launches defence against Muddy Waters - FT.com". Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  28. ^ "Muddy Waters Reaction to Olam Frantic Response - Muddy Waters Research". Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  29. ^ "Olam Sues Short-Seller Muddy Waters". Reuters  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 21 November 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  30. ^ Jones, Sam. "Olam hits back at Block with libel suit". Retrieved 14 July 2016 – via Financial Times. 
  31. ^ http://www.laolandissues.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Case-Champasak-Coffee-in-Paksong-June-2012.pdf
  32. ^ How Asia Works, Studwell J, Longlist 2013 

External links[edit]