Article sponsored by the IDC

Simphiwe Mehlomakulu represents the new class of black industrialists who have used their technical expertise coupled with a keen business sense to build a successful industrial enterprise.

A chemical engineer with years of experience at Sasol and PetroSA, he co-founded Reatile Group which today comprises an impressive range of ventures in the gas energy field — and employs more than 600 people.

Since it was established in 2003 the group has built success upon success and is taking on multinational players that have long dominated the market.

One of its most recent triumphs was the announcement in September of a merger of its Reatile Gaz unit with French-owned Easigas. This will result in the largest LPG supplier by profit in the local market.

Reatile Gaz is a significant success for Mehlomakulu, which has been achieved with a helping hand from the Industrial Development Corp (IDC).

This relationship dates back to 2010 when the IDC provided R40m in funding for Reatile Gaz to establish its head office, 500m of LPG storage and a state-of-the-art semi-automated filling plant in Chamdor, Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.

This has been followed by an additional R20m to take an initial 25% stake in Egoli Gas — which has grown since to outright ownership — and most recently a R50m facility to help it extend its pipeline infrastructure.

“The initial loan laid the platform for Reatile Gaz, which has grown to supplying 60 000 t of product,” he says.

“The IDC has been very involved in Egoli Gas and our growth, and we look forward to them funding future projects as well.”

And there is no shortage of plans for Reatile Group. Mehlomakulu says the group aims to entrench its position in the energy field through a strategic joint venture with Vopak, the world’s largest independent tank storage provider, to establish the country’s first truly independent fuel terminal in Heidelberg by 2018.

Plans are also in place to establish a wind energy project that will be bidding in the next round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme, as well as a coal-to-power project in Mpumalanga.

And while the IDC is expected to play an important role as a funding partner for many of these plans, Reatile Group is simultaneously positioning itself to attract international interests that share its vision.

PUBLISHED in the Financial Mail, please  click here for the full article.