Silent shakeup at Bralirwa amid anticompetitive practices claims

Barely one year in office as the Managing Director of Bralirwa, Sven Piederiet, decided to tender in his resignation bringing a wave of shock to the beer industry, which is witnessing a shift from Bralirwa’s monopoly.
Bralirwa's beer plant in Gisenyi . The New Times/File photo
Bralirwa's beer plant in Gisenyi . The New Times/File photo

Barely one year in office as the Managing Director of Bralirwa, Sven Piederiet, decided to tender in his resignation bringing a wave of shock to the beer industry, which is witnessing a shift from Bralirwa’s monopoly.

Sven Piederiet is set to quit Bralirwa and the entire Heineken Group effective January 16, 2012, Bralirwa’s Board Chairman, Jean-Paul van Hollebeke, announced recently.

Bralirwa is a subsidiary of Heineken Group.

Piedriet, who also doubled as Bralirwa’s Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors resigned on December 9 and he is set to join SalenteinArgentina, which is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina as its Chief Executive Officer.

His resignation follows the transfer of Alexander Koch to Join Heineken in Greece. Koch was Bralirwa’s Commercial Director.

It also came barely a month after the resignation of Rene van Graaf as a Non Executive Director. He was immediately replaced by Schuurman Maarten.

Prior to his appointment as the MD of Bralirwa in 2009, Sven held various senior management positions within the Heineken Company in the Netherlands, Panama and Egypt.

He drastically pushed up Bralirwa’s performance and substantially increased shareholder value as the company’s net profit surged to Rwf5.4b in the first six months of this year compared to Rwf3.8b in the first half of 2010.

The company’s Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) rose by 33.5 per cent as a result of a strong volume performance and effective cost management partly counterbalanced by planned higher marketing investment and increased input cost.

Piederiet is credited for being instrumental in converting Bralirwa into a modern, dynamic, consumer-oriented, and a high-performing company with a solid strategy to continue its growth and value creation.

He spearheaded the rebranding of Turbo King in a small portable bottle and strengthened the Mutzig brand with draft beer,which is a new proposition on the Rwandan market.

Experts argue that his artistic innovation as he focused on effective sales execution combined with increased marketing investments improved efficiency.

Yet in the midst of this impressive performance— which also saw Bralirwa become the first domestic company to be listed on the country’s stock exchange last year, the brewery has come under heavy spotlight due to what experts termed as anticompetitive business practices.

And many are puzzled as to why a person of Piederiet’s repute would decide to resign at such short notice.

Sources close to Bralirwa told Business Times that the recent accusations of “unfair competition” from its rivals, Brasserie des Mille Collines (BMC) and East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), damaged Bralirwa’s image and could have paved way for Sven’s immediate exit.

Bralirwa attracted sharp criticism from BMC and EABL for its monopoly and anti-competitive approach.

Thomas Weingarten, the Managing Director of BMC told Business Times in an earlier interview that Bralirwa’s sales representatives floored SKOL advertisements, brandings and threatened to withdraw the coolers and furniture of retailers who insisted on selling competing brands.

Bralirwa is also accused to have signed unfavourable contracts with retailers to deny other brands visibility.

Industry experts say that Heineken was concerned that Piederiet’s seedy anti-competitive methods would jeopardise the Group’s corporate image hence asking him to relinquish his position.

However, Freddy Nyangezi, Bralirwa’s Corporate Affairs Manager told Business Times that it was time for Piederiet to leave Heineken after serving since 2007.

“I take this opportunity to wish the best to Sven with whom I had the great pleasure to work for the past four years,” the chairman said in a statement.

The company appointed Jonathan HALL to help Bralirwa swim through the waves of stiffening beer industry competition.

 “Mr. HALL is bringing a substantial and solid experience from which Bralirwa Ltd will further strengthen its leading position and performance”.

Hall, who holds a Masters Degree in Modern History and a MSc in Ag Economics from Oxford University in the UK, has 37 years of experience.

Industry watchers say that replacing Piederiet with the more experienced HALL would help reshape Bralirwa and consolidate its market position as the leading alcoholic and soft beverages manufacturer in the country.
dias.nyesiga@newtimes.co.rw

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