MOHAMED AIT BENZAITER

Morocco 2020 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohamed Ait Benzaiter, Deputy General Manager of Menara Holding, on operations in Ivory Coast, strategic objectives, and public works in Morocco.

You recently opened operations in Ivory Coast with two of your flagship corporations. What is the strategy of the group regarding Africa?

We had a strategic expansion plan at the national level that was based on a five-year plan focused on basic trade. We decided to continue our expansion on the international level by becoming an example at the national level to prepare ourselves for this sub-Saharan adventure. In 2019, the time came when we decided to create two branches in Ivory Coast as part of our expansion plan. We have also confirmed our presence in Morocco as a model to follow in the construction industry, particularly in prefabricated, ready-mixed concrete, transport, and other activities that allow us to have a strong business model in Morocco. The idea is to adapt this model to seize more opportunities at the sub-Saharan level, starting with Ivory Coast, which will be Menara's hub. Our ambition is, therefore, to be present in Ivory Coast through our core business, which is the installation of prefabricated factories and all that is quarrying, with our other complementary activities already present in the group. Sub-Saharan Africa and Africa in general is an economic market that has a great orientation at the international level, so there are opportunities. We also consider our connections to the royal policy, so there are several advantages and several things that have facilitated this integration. Africa has a strong potential, especially for the sector in which we operate.

How do you evaluate the outcome of the group's 2016-20 strategic vision?

The balance sheet in general is a positive one. We set an objective to be the national benchmark in our core businesses, and we are currently the national benchmark in terms of capacity, presence, and turnover. In the vision were several structuring investment projects that have achieved 90% of their objectives in terms of achievement. The loss of our founder had an impact at the beginning, but we were able to preserve continuity and put in place a succession that was worked out well in advance, thanks to the clear-sightedness of the president. Transmission is the decisive element for the continuity of a group or a family company in general at the international level, particularly in Morocco. Currently, we are in the process of consolidating this plan by 2020, as there is another road to travel throughout the year. But generally, despite the construction sector's poor growth, the group has been able to achieve growth. This is important for us because the ecosystem of construction and building since 2016 has been stagnant, particularly in the region of Marrakech. We have grown over 25% approximately during this time.

What are the group's main strategic objectives for the next five years?

Our objectives lie on two main axes: one axis is the preparation that has been finalized for a possible IPO of the group's main branch, Menara Prefa. The second axis is an official and operational presence in sub-Saharan Africa through two boxes: the launching of building works and the starting up and implementation of the factories. In addition, we also have the ambition to be present in other regions at the national level to follow the evolution of other regions in terms of development. For example, this could be in the southern region, other central regions, and in the north; this represents continuity for us because we consider the construction sector is among the top levers at the national level and will certainly be evolving. With this 2021-2025 vision, it is vital for us that if we want to maintain our position as leaders, we must always innovate and reposition ourselves on the market through innovation as an integrated solution, not only as product innovations but also service, quality, digital, human, financial, and process innovation.

How do you evaluate the building and public works (BTP) sector in Morocco? What are the challenges that the group is facing?

Unfortunately, in the construction sector, there are some risks. Some work is being done at the moment, but it remains among the sectors that are under-supervised. There is also the informal sector, which brings in unfair competition. Investing in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation is still a huge cost for the group, and not all operators have the same spirit. But I remain optimistic because there are projects that are open in the Agadir region, and there is an orientation and a willingness to structure and develop this sector. At the level of the sector, there are many things to be foreseen, such as training, fairer taxation, and an accompaniment on behalf of interested people for companies to try to upgrade these structures. We share this ambition with other companies in the sector that have the same objectives and the same orientation in terms of fair competition and development, because it is through these values that Morocco can climb the ladder and evolve.

Menara Prefa represents 70% of the group. Are you thinking to keep this business as the main line for the group or are you looking into more diversification?

At the moment, we will stay the way we are. Menara Prefa is the locomotive; it is the flagship company of the group and, in terms of strategic evolution, we are strategically integrating all innovation in Menara Prefa. While it represents 70% of the holding, it is the main axis around which all the other branches satellite around. There is another pole we are developing in real estate, but, for the moment, Menara Prefa will remain the locomotive. We will maintain this position because the development in terms of products, services, and solutions is done under the umbrella of Menara Prefa.