Haco staff face uncertainty after Bic franchise buyout

Businessman Chris Kirubi.
Businessman Chris Kirubi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Workers of Haco Industries employed in the company’s BIC pen manufacturing division face uncertainty after the acquirer of that unit — French multinational Société BIC — said it would review the staffing levels once it takes charge.

Haco, owned by businessman Chris Kirubi, recently signed an agreement to transfer its entire BIC manufacturing and distribution business to the multinational for an undisclosed sum in a transaction set to be completed by January 1, 2019.

The multinational’s upcoming review of the workforce it will inherit could see some jobs dropped as it aligns the local operation with its global business.

“BIC will assess the current structure and the number of employees to ensure we are structured in a way that allows us to fully leverage our scale and market capabilities,” BIC told the Business Daily in a statement.

“Based on this assessment we will define the best organisation structure. No additional details are available at this time.”

Mr Kirubi told Business Daily on Wednesday that the number of Haco employees to be be absorbed by BIC will become clear in the coming months.

“All these matters are still being discussed and it will be inappropriate to comment at the moment,” he said.

The deal will bring to an end nearly 40 years of Haco’s BiC franchise that saw it manufacture and sell stationery, lighters and shavers.

BIC will acquire Haco’s semi-automated production plant located in Kasarani as part of the transaction which the Kenyan firm says gives it an opportunity to diversify and grow in the regional markets.

The deal adds to the emerging trend in retail and fast-moving consumer goods sector, where multinationals have squeezed out local franchises by buying them out or forcing them into joint ventures.

Such moves have been seen to arise from the desire to take a bigger chunk of profits as well as enforce standards, including pricing, marketing and customer service.

BIC says the transaction is in line with its continued growth strategy in Africa, with the multinational attracted by a positive outlook for the stationery market.

Besides their high quality, sales of BiC pens have been helped by strong relationships with large customers, including companies that order branded units from Haco.

The deal with BIC comes soon after Mr Kirubi regained full control of Haco with the buy-back of the 51 per cent stake he had sold to Johannesburg-based Tiger Brands.