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Robert Mærsk Uggla: We must run useful businesses

In a rare public appearance at the DI Business Summit 2017, CEO of A.P. Møller Holding A/S Robert Mærsk Uggla offered insight into the reasoning behind the company’s new million-dollar Africa fund. 
According to Robert Mærsk Uggla, CEO of A.P. Møller Holding A/S, the company’s future business ventures will both have a social impact and be economically viable. Photo: Hans Nørgaard (see the entire speech in English on video by clicking the picture - or at the bottom of the article).

Publiceret: 28.09.2017
Af Karen Witt Olsen mail

A.P. Møller-Mærsk is currently undergoing a major transformation in the form of divestment and new projects.

And at DI’s Business Summit 2017, the guests received a rare insight into the thoughts behind the transformation, when Robert Mærsk Uggla, CEO of A.P. Møller Holding A/S, took the stage.

“In recent years, most of our time has been spent structuring our existing portfolio of companies. But when we look to the future, what we do will not only be centred on the existing portfolio, but also on new activities,” he said.

Enormous Africa fund

A.P. Møller Holding A/S has already started. In August, the company launched a new fund focused on investments in infrastructure projects in Africa and backed by rather impressive sums.

The fund was established together with PKA, Pension Danmark, and Lægernes Pension and aims to eventually raise DKK 7 billion.

But why Africa?

To explain that, Robert Mærsk Uggla went back to the company’s very beginnings. Because even though profit and return on investment have helped ensure the company’s survival and development throughout the years, the basis for Mærsk’s activities has always been something else: Creating useful companies.

“We have always been driven by much more than simply the goal of financial profit. Maersk Oil was originally established out of a desire to avoid oil coming into foreign hands,” he said.

And similar motives lay behind the investment in Danske Bank, Robert Mærsk Uggla reminded the audience at the Opera House.

“It has always been about running useful businesses,” he said.

See also: Exporting Danish cycling culture to Africa

Large waves of refugees

It is precisely these notions of social usefulness that lay behind the new Africa fund.

The large continent appeared on the radar as a result of the ongoing refugee crisis. Not least at Mærsk, where the crisis is even closer to home, given that captains of the company’s ships have rescued over 5,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Some captains have forwarded pictures of women and their little children - and that has affected us, too. It has become part of the discussion about where to invest,” he said.

 “We all need to be concerned about what is happening in Africa. Only three per cent of global trade today take place in Africa, but 16 per cent of the world’s population lives on the continent,” he said, while also noting population growth.

“My hypothesis is: Unless the African population finds jobs locally, some of them will move - and they will move up to us. It is precisely for that reason that the need for investments is so big - and has useful potential.”

“Will we be successful? Time will tell. Investing in Africa is not without risk. But we have seen promising examples,” he said and referred to A.P. Terminal’s 200 million-dollar investment in harbours i Nigeria:

“It has created 32,000 jobs and reduced emissions.”

Robert Mærsk Uggla also emphasises, however, that it is not only a matter of philanthropy. For all investments, it is about creating sustainable businesses that can deliver results in relation to both financial and social goals.
Unless the African population finds jobs locally, some of them will move - and they will move up to us.
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PUBLISHED: 9/28/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 9/28/2017