Angola: Interview with Luis de Freitas
Luis de Freitas
We know that Panalpina Group is one of the world’s leading suppliers of forwarding and logistics services, specializing in end-to-end supply chain management solutions and intercontinental air freight and ocean freight shipments. Please tell us more about the history and the background of the company? What key strategic moves were made to bring the company to where it is today?
The history of the Panalpina Group worldwide goes more than 100 years ago. All started in Switzerland. Several small shipping forwarders integrated and, in 1954, the company became independent under the name of “Panalpina”. The company continued to expand around the world both by further acquisitions and organical growth. The most recent acquisition was done in February 2011, with the purchase of a new logistic company in Norway.
In Angola, Panalpina started in 1970 thru an agency partnership with “Agencia Maritima de Occidente”. In 1998, Panalpina acquired the operations of the agent. Since then Panalpina has been growing organically in Angola. The most recent expansion happened in 2010, when we opened new offices in Porto Amboim (Kwanza Sul province) and in Talatona, Luanda Sul (Country HQ). Today, Panalpina Angola has more than 300 collaborators, of which more than 95% are Angolans; and it is represented with own offices in the provinces of Cabinda (Malongo & Cabinda City) Zaire (Kwanda Base/Soyo), Luanda (Airport, Boavista, Sonils Base & Talatona), Benguela (Lobito). Further expansions are planned for the future.
Today Panalpina Group provides different services such as Air Freight and Air Freight Charters, Ocean Freight and Marine Chartering, Combined Air/Ocean Solutions, Project Handling, International Rig Moves, Door-to-door Services and Offshore Deliveries. Tell us more about these services and how are they improving the Angolan economy today?
Panalpina´s portfolio includes both standard logistic products offered in other markets, but also tailored made special logistic solutions for the O&G and Industrial Project sector in Angola.
It is precisely in these two sectors (O&G and Projects) where Panalpina has made a significant contribution to the development of Angola, and we take great pride in that. Panalpina has and will continue to deliver top class logistic solutions for its clients in Angola, irrespective of the inherent challenges and geographical locations.
Which current projects are you most excited about, let’s say on short- and middle term, so from 2011 to 2014?
Panalpina has important contracts with O&G operators (such as Chevron and Sonangol PP) and other subcontractors. These clients have important projects scheduled for the years to come. Moreover, it is expected that there will be new players entering the O&G market in the short-middle term, as a result of new concessions granted and new important projects, such as the Lobito Refinery. Certainly, we look forward to those opportunities.
Although our main focus has been O&G, Panalpina also provides logistic services in Angola to a wide variety of industry verticals such as construction, consumer & retail, mining, telecom and others. We also feel very positive about the development of these sectors and the development of the Angolan economy in general.
Regarding to other freight forwarding companies, tell us what makes your service different? What is your competitive advantage?
First of all, we have a know-how advantage: Panalpina has been active in the oil and gas logistics since the ‘60’s. O&G logistics is a very complex field and specific know how is vital. In Angola, most O&G service providers employ former Panalpina staff to run their O&G operations. By some, Panalpina Angola is considered as a school for O&G logistics.
Panalpina´s own controlled network spans across 500 locations in 80 countries. This network is supported by best-in-class IT solutions that enable us to control the business and manage data flows for our clients.
Finally, it is important to mention what we perceive to be our most important competitive advantage: Our human capital. The company executes important investments training and know-how transfer. I believe this is the key factor that sets us apart from competition.
Keeping in mind that with the globalization the world now is more connected than ever and in Angola the logistic sector is growing year by year. Now more than ever it’s the time to attract potential partners and investment in Angola. How are you planning to attract them?
The Angolan government, thru the State Oil Company and other official entities, has done a very good job attracting foreign investment. In the field of O&G this is clearly visible, based on the fact that several of the most important players in the O&G industry are represented in Angola.
Once these foreign investors set shop in Angola, Panalpina offers them top-class logistic solutions. These investors can benefit locally of the global expertise and service of Panalpina.
What is your strategy today? Do you want to gain new clients or make strong relations with the clients that you already have?
Our main focus is to continue to deliver top quality solutions. Of course, our first priority is to serve right the clients that have already entrusted their business to us. If we manage to continue to deliver the same quality and same performance, we can expand. What is clear is that we don’t and won’t compromise quality in the name of additional market share.
Mr. Luis de Freitas, you have demonstrated an extraordinary level of competence by articulating vision, values and strategy for the company in order to provide the best quality and services. As a visionary and leader tell us your vision for Panalpina in the next five years?
The vision of the Panalpina Group worldwide has been clearly articulated by our CEO, Mrs. Monika Ribar: We deliver compelling solutions that provide value to all customers – every time.
This statement, of course, applies to the operations of Panalpina Angola. Our aim is to execute this vision in Angola, with Angolans and for Angolans.
Before going to our last question, can you tell us more about your personal and professional background and how you became the Managing Director of this company?
In October 2011, I will have 18 years with Panalpina Group. I started back in my home country, Panama, where I worked for 7 years. Then, I moved to the former Soviet Union, based in Baku in Azerbaijan. At that time, I was responsible for the financial area of the all countries in the Central Asia region. I did that for 6 years. Then I moved for 2 years to Dubai, also in a finance function. Finally, I came to Angola on my first assignment as a country manager and first assignment in Africa. It has been a great experience!
What it’s your final message to our readers, entrepreneurs and CEOs, regarding to the market and the opportunities in Angola. What would you say to people who have historically been fed negative and misinformation regarding Angola?
Panalpina has done business in Angola, even during the war time years. We have accompanied the country during its most difficult times and manage to perform our activities.
Once peace was reached, the climate to perform business further improved. There are still challenges in certain areas, but my experience working in several countries is that there are always different challenges to face. Angola is not different than that.
In the O&G sector, any company that could be considered as an important player is or plans to be present in Angola. It is one of the most important O&G markets worldwide
To any potential investor coming to Angola, I would say to take the opportunity. Panalpina is ready to provide the same top class logistical services, as provided elsewhere.