5.7 billion euros. The sum was offered by MSC late last year to buy the outlet that has made Bolloré famous in Africa. And it’s the same amount that will appear at the bottom of the big check that the French company will pocket. The two companies were in exclusive negotiations through midnight on Thursday, March 31. The other players in the sector will not have had the opportunity to present their offer.
The 35-year-old activity affects around forty African countries! In particular, it has a network of sixteen port concessions, warehouses and road and rail hubs. In 2021, the highly profitable African logistics industry with more than 20,000 employees recorded an 8% jump in sales to 2.2 billion euros. But faced with increasingly expensive investments and growing competition from Chinese operators, Vincent Bolloré’s group wanted to sell it.
It was also at the center of corruption scandals in Togo and Guinea, for which the group agreed to pay a €12 million fine to French justice in 2021 and be prosecuted by the French anti-corruption agency.
Family business, from Bolloré to Aponte
In a year at the latest, and when the last reservations are lifted (green light from the competition authorities and the countries affected by this change of operator), the Aponte family will thus succeed the Bolloré clan on many ports, roads and railways on the African continent.
A family of Italian seafarers instead of a family of Breton papermakers.
Headquartered in Geneva, the MSC Group has a fleet of 560 container ships, 23 cruise ships and more than 100,000 employees in 156 countries and operates terminals in Singapore, Long Beach (California) or Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Like Bolloré, MSC is a company whose core is still very family-oriented. It was founded by Gianluigi Aponte, who is now 81 years old. The man was born in Sorrento, southwest Italy, in 1940. The son of a sailor, he married Rafaela, the daughter of a wealthy Swiss banker whose fortune formed the basis of the MSC empire in the early 1970s. In fact, Gianluigi Aponte owes his first financial rise to his beautiful mother.
Half a century after its inception, MSC is still run by the Aponte couple, who are joined in the adventure by their two children, Diego and Alexia.
In 2014, Gianluigi Aponte handed over the management of the group to his son, who has been President of the Board of Directors since the end of 2020.
In a portrait he dedicated the place to the Aponte family The Africa Tribune I agree: “The family remains at the heart of the leadership system. Rafaela takes care of decorating the liners while Alexia manages the group’s finances. The couple’s son-in-law, Pierfrancesco Vago, is at the forefront of the cruise business, which is no less given that MSC is fourth in the world in this market. Her daughter-in-law Ela takes care of buying and selling the freighters“.
When some African countries were concerned about the prospect of selling Bolloré Africa Logistics to MSC, Cyrille Bolloré, Vincent’s son and heir to the Empire, emphasized that commonality between the two companies, namely a strong sense of family.
MSC and Africa
MSC also does not hesitate to highlight its historical links with the African continent. Didn’t Gianluigi Aponte spend the first years of his life in Mogadishu? In fact, the family ended up in what was still Italian Somalia in the middle of World War II, before returning to Italy when Gianluigi was a child following the death of his father. Historically, it was in Somalia that MSC took its first steps in Africa in the early 1980s before expanding to some forty countries on the continent. From the port of Lomé (Togo) to the port of San Pedro (Côte d’Ivoire), MSC is already a well-known brand in Africa, where it was previously a competitor to Bolloré.
Does this sale mean that the rich Breton family’s name will disappear from Africa?
In a press release issued on Thursday, March 31, the group insisted on recalling that they had a “significant presence in Africa“, in particular through Canal+ and investments in communications (Havas), entertainment or publishing, activities in which he affirms that he “will continue to develop“.