RMB Ventures moves into grapes tech: scoops Grapetek

Deals seems to be coming in thick and fast for private equity player RMB Ventures with the firm scooping another interesting management backed buyout of Grapetek, the leading manufacturer of table grape preservation sheets which it markets globally under the Uvasys brand.

The subsidiary of FirstRand, RMB Ventures, seems to have been extremely busy in the past few months if its press statements are anything to go by. Deals announced in the past few months include the purchase of minority interest in Group 88, Southern Africa’s largest independent footwear and apparel retail chains. And there was also the management buyout of Jojo Tanks a few months ago and undertaken together with sister company RMB Corvest. RMB has also proven to be a slick player in the BEE funding space.

RMB Ventures usually invests in established companies with proven track records for a period of five to seven years, and provides funding and M&A expertise. It has made over 40 transactions since the mid-1990s.

On the latest Grapetek deal the firm has captured a world leader in its niche market. Grapetek’s SO2-generating sheets, which comply with the most stringent health and safety regulations around the world, are placed over packed table grapes to protect the product from fungal infestation and ensure it arrives at global destinations in prime condition. Grapetek commands a 30% share of its global market, selling to grape farmers and packers in 23 countries.

The locally developed product has been a key element in the explosive growth in annual international table grape sales, which today tally 3.5 million tons, as it has brought to the market an ability to preserve the sensitive fruit during long sea voyages.

RMB Ventures is co-investing in the company with Pieter van der Westhuyzen and members of his senior management team and black-owned private equity house Pan-African Private Equity Funds.

RMB Ventures’ Nick Hudson says “RMB Ventures is backing Pieter van der Westhuyzen, who, with his partner of ten years, Pieter van der Merwe, built Grapetek from a small local business into an international success story. By co-investing with Pieter and his senior management team we are assuring Grapetek’s customers of the continuation of its culture of excellence in technical development, customer service and production quality.”

Pan-African Private Equity Funds CEO Zuko Kubukeli said “We are delighted to be investing alongside RMB and Grapetek management in this South African-grown global success story and to play our part in positioning the company for continued growth in traditional and new markets.”

Grapetek chief executive Pieter van der Westhuyzen believes the partnership will provide a stable platform for further growth. “RMB Ventures’ approach focuses on achieving alignment with management in a sensible structure and providing thoughtful strategic input. Management is then left to get on with the job of building value and continuing to think of innovative ways to serve our customers, rather than becoming ensnared by bureaucracy, which often seems to creep up on companies which grow as much as we have done.”

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