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(Special Report): Why Dangote Cement ambushed Lafarge’s Michel Puchercos

Whereas a report from the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) last week revealed that all is set for ageless cement technocrat, the Group Managing Director/CEO of Dangote Cement Plc, Engr. Joseph Makoju will retire as GMD/CEO effective January 31, 2020, facts have emerged on why the continental cement giant swooped on the outgoing CEO of Lafarge Africa, Mr Michel Puchercos as his replacement effective 1st February 2020.

Engr. Makoju, popularly called Mr. Cement, is bowing out after 45 years of transformational leadership in the cement industry. The Board has however approved the appointment of Mr. Michel Puchercos as his replacement as the Group CEO, effective 1st February 2020.

Fact check by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) on the incoming Dangote Cement chief executive showed that the French international is “A results-driven, self-motivated and resourceful CEO, either with local or regional responsibilities with a proven ability and large expertise in management and value creation in the asset and capital intensive industry spanning several countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa continent.”

BHIU, an independent division of Media Hilights Integrated Company Limited, publishers of Business Hilights online and Markets Business Hilights Newspapers, is a standalone business research entity specialising in carrying out strategic market surveys and investment feasibility studies for local and international concerns.

In 2019 alone, BHIU carried out market feasibility studies (at a fee) for a number of foreign investors, out of which, about four (names withheld) relied on our report to invest in Nigeria; two in oil and gas, one in telecoms and one in logistics.

Findings by BHIU showed further that Puchercos is also, “A skilled relationship-builder leader with history of successfully directing multi-national teams in achieving outstanding results with proven record of dramatically improving business results through implementation of change management initiatives, process standardizations, etc.

Besides, he “Possess excellent team building skills and able to establish sustainable and profitable relationships with customers, suppliers and stakeholders across the world.”

Additional fact check showed that Puchercos for decades specialises on Cement Production Technology, Mining Industry, Food & Feed Industry, BioChemistry, Green & Brownfield EPC Project, Cost Control, Continuous Improvement, Change Management, Business Unit Integration, Leadership, Alternative fuels, Environment & Rehabilitation, Due Diligence, Merge & Acquisition, Post Merge Integration, Lead Multinational Teams, Integrity and Risk analysis, Renewable Energy, Strategy.

In April 2016, Puchercos averred that “While closing three years, I developed in Nigeria, at one of most difficult time of this country’s history (recession, security, shortage of Forex, high inflation and interest rates) and implemented a successful turnaround plan addressing together the legal structure (delisting & mergers), the financial structure (right issues), the overall organisation (reduction of expat; flat and lean management structure ; succession plans in place), Health & Safety (drastic improvements on road safety), a new design of our Route to Market, the Information System (merger of three systems into one SAP), with new investments (adding 40% capacity, captive power plant, new product lines), and a redesign of the fuel & energy policy.”

In his final note, he concluded that “Bottom line of it being to resurrect profitability at historical levels at Lafarge.”

Apart from other feats achieved at Lafarge, Puchercos planned and strategically executed the technical detachment (sale) of Lafarge South Africa which had undermined the progress of the company in Nigeria with huge cost few months ago. The move pushed Nigerian arm of the company to early signs of recovery and high yield for shareholders.

Besides, he managed the rebranding of one of the major cement solutions of Lafarge known as Elephant Supaset which was first unveiled in Lekki about a decade ago.

During the administration of Puchercos at Lafarge Africa, the company underwent several growth-tailored reforms leading to the introduction several cement products to the Nigerian market.

With plants in Ewekoro and Sagamu in the South West, Mfamosing in the South-South and Ashaka in the North East of Nigeria, Lafarge Africa Plc under Pucherous installed cement production capacity of 10.5MTPA and has plans to grow in the near term.

BHIU report on Pucherous revealed that within the period he was managing Lafarge, the company’s product portfolio grossed to five brands: Elephant Cement, a general purpose cement – a multi-use product suitable for majority of the applications; Supaset, a fast-setting and rapid strength gaining cement specifically designed for the needs of the block-makers; Powermax, a high strength cement for the sophisticated contractor segment; Etex, a high performance cement designed to the customer’s specification for tile manufacturing and SRC, a sulphate resistant cement for coastal construction.

A source at Lafarge confided on BHIU that ahead of his retirement, there were frantic moves to retain him that failed.

However, industry analysts are upbeat that performance narratives at Dangote Cement in Nigeria and other African economies are set to change for the better as Michel Puchercos takes charge effective February 1, 2020.

According to experts, having taken Lafarge Africa to five solid ‘Bus Stops’ of cement solutions in four years (2016 to 2019), there is the likelihood that in no time, Dangote Cement products will surpass the current two; Dangote Cement and Dangote BlocMaster, a 42.5 grade cement.

Available work statistics revealed Michel Puchercos started his career in 1982 at the French Ministry of Agriculture, where he was head of two departments. He left the ministry after seven years to other companies as General Manager and Executive Vice President in the Biochemistry and Food industry.

He joined Lafarge as Head, Strategy and Purchasing in Orsan, Lafarge Biochemistry, and in 1998 became Director of Cement Strategy and Information Systems, Lafarge Gypsum.

In 2003, Michel became the Director of Cement strategy, Lafarge Group in France.

In 2005, he moved into cement operations as the CEO for Lafarge operations in Kenya and Uganda while doubling as the Chairman of Tanzania operations. While in this role, he was the Head of African Health as well as Supply Chain Management Committees for East and South-East Africa.

After four years in Sub-Saharan Africa, Michel moved to Asia as the President and CEO of Lafarge South Korea, where he remained for seven years. While in this role, he was also a Special Advisor to the chairman as well as a Board Member at Aso Cement in Japan.

Michel is a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, and the National School of Rural Engineering, Waterways & Forests, France. He is married with three children.