Wilec: A new owner with a new vision

June 13th, 2019, Published in Articles: Energize

Actom sold its Wilec division to Makarenge Electrical Industries (MEl) recently. MEI is a black-empowered company based in Gauteng. Energize caught up with MEI’s CEO, Nene Mathebula, at the company’s factory in Olifantsfontein and asked him about his plans and vision for the company.

Energize: Congratulations on your acquisition of Wilec. How did it come about?

Mathebula: Thank you. After spending many years working at Eskom, the mines and other companies before becoming an entrepreneur in the electrical industry. I spent most of my time around transformers and motors and decided to try to partner with Actom in the ownership of Wilec because I realised that as Africa’s largest supplier of input materials and technical solutions to the electric rotating machine, transformer and general industries, Wilec was a company which could give me access to clients, like Eskom and others, which insist on purchasing products from a company which offers high quality products with a high degree of local content. As it turned out, however, the discussions ended up with me buying the company from Actom.

Energize: Why did Actom want to sell the business?

Mathebula: The company said that while Wilec was a key supplier of input materials required by several of its manufacturing and repair businesses, Wilec was not considered integral to the group’s main scope of operations, where the focus is on production, supply, repair and maintenance of complete electro-mechanical equipment. Furthermore, the company wanted to sell Wilec to a black industrialist who would develop the business further.

Energize: Now that you own the company, what is your primary intention?

Mathebula: I intend to make a large investment in new, modern equipment, to turn the company into a world-class facility which can meet the standards demanded by modern industry.

Energize: How will you grow the business?

Mathebula: The products Wilec makes are used by utilities and industrial companies. I intend to manufacture world-class products which are used in South Africa as well as in the rest of Africa. Therefore, I will supply local customers and export my products into Africa.

Energize: You say the products are used by utilities, municipalities and industry. What does Wilec actually manufacture?

Mathebula: Wilec makes everything needed for the manufacture of motors and transformers, except for the steel. This includes wire, under the brandname of Transwire, for motor armatures and transformer windings; copper for conductors, switches, and tap-changers; as well as bearings and insulation materials.

Energize: How was the acquisition deal structured?

Mathebula: I bought the business from Actom for cash. I borrowed some and used my own money for the rest.

Energize: Is this factory large enough to accommodate the modernisation programme and the increase in output to meet local and export demand that you envision?

Mathebula: This site, in three years from now, will be a world-class facility, offering high-quality, locally made products for Africa’s electrical industries and power utilities. I am very excited about the future of this business. However, this is not the only site we own. There is another factory in City Deep, Johannesburg, which currently serves as the company’s head office. Besides these two sites, we also have sales offices in Durban, Middleburg and Cape Town.

Energize: As the owner and CEO of Wilec, what is your management style?

Mathebula: I believe in a hands-on approach. I hold a BSc degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cape Town. My engineering training and experience helps to understand exactly what’s happening on the factory floor. I will interface with the workforce but let them get on with the jobs they have to do.

Energize: How many people does Wilec employ?

Mathebula: Having five sites, the company is relatively large. We have 347 members of staff, 200 of which are based here.

Send your comments to energize@ee.co.za

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