Ethiopia: Orbis, Ethio-Nippon Sold to Eritreans

Orbis Trading was sold for an estimated 30m euros.

Two Eritrean-born business people acquired Orbis Trading & Training Center S.C. and its sister company Ethio-Nippon Technical Center S.C. at the end of December.

Though the figure was neither confirmed by the sellers nor the buyers, the individuals bought Orbis, one of the oldest Swiss-owned automotive and technical companies, for over 30 million euros.

The transaction includes the showrooms of the two establishments located on Ras Lulseged Avenue, across from the premises of the African Union.

BDO-Ethiopia Consulting Plc, which acquired Next Consult in 2013, was the company involved in the acquisition of the company. The consulting company currently operates with 45 partners and has staff ventures in mining, tourism and leisure, manufacturing and retail, ICT and family-owned companies.

Orbis has a showroom, sells spare parts and gives maintenance services for all types of Mercedes Benz vehicles, Renault vehicles, machinery and communication devices, body and paint repair and vehicles inspection.

Orbis Trading & Training Center, which was established in the 1950s, has been engaged since inception in sales of two vehicle brands, Mercedes-Benz and Renault. It also ventured into selling different machinery, spare parts and providing maintenance services. A decade ago, rumours had it that the company would be sold to the Ethio-Saudi tycoon Mohammed Al-Amoudi.

The company has a network of different suppliers including in Germany, France, Brazil and Egypt among the others. Its sister company, Ethio-Nippon, was established in May 1969 with five shareholders. Ethio-Nippon was initially a distributor of Mazda and Isuzu trucks.

Ethio-Nippon Technical imports and distributes automobiles, heavy-duty trucks, construction and agricultural machinery, power generators and medium to large-sized buses.

Ethio-Nippon is also one of the pioneer automotive distributors in Ethiopia that started business as a distributor of Mazda Motor Corporation, then known as Toyo Kogy Ltd., covering passenger cars and medium-duty commercial vehicles.

In 1981, Ethio-Nippon signed a distributorship agreement with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) for the supply of motor vehicles, including heavy-duty FUSO trucks and buses with which it made its debut into the market and soon followed with passenger cars, pickups and station wagons.

When MMC split into Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi FUSO Truck and Bus Corporation in 2003, Ethio-Nippon signed a separate distributorship agreement with MFTBC/FUSO and continued the truck business. Ethio-Nippon also has a workshop facility in Qality, 10Km from the headquarters.

The two companies are among the importers of brand new cars in the country, though over 85pc of imported vehicles nationally are second-hand and about 90pc are Toyotas, according to Deloitte Africa Automotive Insights.

The management of Orbis has declined to comment on the issue.

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