Issad Rebrab, CEO of Cevital group, is one of Africa’s richest men. His conglomerate has a turnover of four billion dollars, and has grown 30% per year on average since 1998. The success story of Issad Rebrab, born in Algeria into a modest family, began with the creation of an accountancy firm in 1968. Three years later, on the advice of one of his clients, he bought shares in the metallurgical construction company Sotecom, which he acquired completely shortly after. Before long, he had emerged as an influential industrialist in Algeria.
The sabotage of some of his sites near Algiers in 1995 forced him to take refuge in France - an exile that would only last a few months. Despite the loss of most of his assets during the civil war, he returned to Algeria to create Cevital in 1998. The company quickly became the number one privately held industrial group in the country. Awash with cash, Issad Rebrab invested in diverse sectors of activity, ranging from agribusiness to glazing, iron and steel. But the group’s real strength has been sugar. The Algerian industrialist owns the largest refinery in the world, with a production capacity of two million tons per year. He exports to more than thirty-five countries and has turned Algeria into a net exporter of sugar. The company has strengthened its international reach through the acquisition of Italian and Spanish refineries, the rescue of the French group Brandt in 2014, and the purchase of a German startup specializing in green energy. With this strategy, the businessman has achieved the aim of diversifying into new technologies.
Flies in the ointment
The failure of negotiations with the South Korean vehicle manufacturer Hyundai, regarding the construction of a factory in Algeria, shows that his industrial empire can meet with failure. The last 18 months have been a rough patch; the breach of a contract with the Italian government was followed by a serious fire in the Samha Samsung factory. But the major difficulty that the CEO has faced of late has been the backlog of goods in Béjaïa. The number one commercial port in Algeria systematically rejected the unloading of equipment and material necessary for the activity of his agribusiness group, on the grounds that Cevital did not have the required authorization. The containers remain impounded several months on. The issue is still before the courts.
Issad Rebrab’s latest project is surely his most ambitious to date, since it involves nothing less than the construction of railway linking Algiers to Cape Town. This titanic project aims to improve the economies of landlocked African countries and facilitate mobility on the continent. This gigantic project has an estimates cost of 15 billion euros.The 74-year-old Cevital CEO has not provided any information regarding his successor. His five children all have positions of responsibility within the group, so the smart money is on Rebrab leaving his empire in the hands of family.