Jan. 12, 2016

Amin J. Ilyas


Amin J. Ilyas

Chairman, Cratos Group

TBY talks to Amin J. Ilyas, Chairman of Cratos Group, on the group's strategy, partners, and diversification.

Cratos Group has grown quickly to cover energy, defense, agriculture, and infrastructure. What motivated your entry into these particular areas?

I grew up with my father and worked in his construction company. When I left military service I started my own construction firm, which was small to begin with. Later, I began marketing diesel and petrol, and the idea for Cratos Energy was born. When it became successful, we diversified into defense and agriculture. Recently, we have been looking at agriculture, because of dwindling oil prices, and this administration is focusing on it. We have about partnering with a Canadian company called Agri-Trend, and we are going to be coaching Nigerian farmers about managing their crops and using modern technology to achieve high yields. We have also partnered with an agriculture-focused private equity firm and will be searching for deals on their behalf.

How has your energy business developed today and where do you stand?

Right now, Cratos Energy is partnered with BP International. We are a registered trademark, and have its full support on finance and trading. We have traded fuel oil cargo over the years. We were part of Synergia and we traded about $600-700 million worth of crude cargo. We also have a partnership with a refinery in Kosovo. These partnerships have helped us grow over the years and we have acquired a lot of experience along the way. We want to venture into the upstream sector now, and also into services. We are looking at going into drilling oil wells and the laying pipelines for IOC's and the government.

As the government focuses on diversification, what opportunities do you see in the energy sector in the face of dropping oil prices?

We saw an opportunity here and have partnered with a company from Arizona called Zhro, which markets a gas capture technology aimed at gas flaring. It can convert it into 98% pure methane, which can be used to run the facilities in the place of diesel, making it more cost effective. This methane can also be exported. If you look at Nigeria as a whole it is gas heavy, the only thing we need to do is develop our capabilities.

What effect has the peaceful political transition had on your prospects thus far, considering your position in Nigeria?

The electoral outcome was just short of a miracle. Because of the peaceful transition, international companies have more confidence in Nigeria. There was also a ripple effect where state governments lost the election and congratulated their counterparts, such things have never happened before. The peaceful transition alone had a positive impact on the businesses, as some investors have been monitoring the situation for the last couple of years, waiting what would happen in 2015.

What services do you provide to the defense industry in Nigeria, and how have you developed it?

We recruited some ex-special forces from the SAS in Britain and ex-Navy Seals from the US. We are working on special tailored programs for the Nigerian forces. We have also worked on a number of sensitive cases that have had a positive impact in the fight against insurgency.

What are your expectations for 2016?

I expect 2016 to be a great year. This coming administration is by the book, so if you know what you are doing you will get the job done. Many people are now interested in investing because of the zero tolerance to corruption.