THE TUNGS (WEMPCO Group) – Inside the Investment Portfolios of Top10 Int’l Family Investors in Nigeria

Mr. Lewis Tung and his brother Robert Tung are the brains behind, Western Metal Products Company Limited (WEMPCO Group), which is one of the largest manufacturing groups operating in Nigeria. The group produces a wide range of building materials and associated products. It manufactures roofing sheets, galvanised pipes, wire nails, plywood, ceramic tiles and sanitary ware. It is also actively involved in agricultural and hospitality sectors.

Lewis Tung is one man that is working assiduously to give Nigeria its basic requirement for industrialization: steel. The Chinese-born, US-trained entrepreneur heads a group that has made some of the biggest foreign direct investments in Nigeria in recent years.

WEMPCO has built a 700,000 metric tonnes per annum cold rolled steel mill complex at Magboro, Ogun State in addition to its existing investments in the country. The complex is a combined investment of about N344 billion on steel rolling mill, ceramic tiles plant and nail production. The steel mill, which is ranked the largest in Africa, has the capacity to roll out 65% of the 1.2 million tonnes of steel used annually in Nigeria, most of which is imported.

The company made an additional investment of $250 million to build a 50 megawatt gas fired power plant in order to ensure adequate and uninterrupted power supply. WEMPCO’s steel mill is expected to boost Nigeria’s capacity in the production of ocean vessels, train bodies, agricultural equipment, earth moving vehicles, coils, flat sheet for round/hollow/square pipes, household electronics casings such as refrigerators, air-conditioners, fan-blade/stands, washing machines, and microwaves, among others.

The group has been in Nigeria for over 40 years with established manufacturing companies producing a wide range of building materials and associated products. It currently employs over 12,000 workers across its 11 subsidiaries.

Steel is the critical element of industrial and infrastructural development. Tung believes that the development of the steel industry needs to happen in Nigeria at its present stage of economic development. Development of steel was the beginning of industrial revolutions in the advanced countries of the world and developing nations also laid the foundation of their development through steel development capabilities, he said.

Tung is impressed by Nigeria’s industrial revolution plan meant to launch the country into the comity of technologically developed nations. He said self-sufficiency in steel production is the key success factor for the plan as has been the case in every country that has attained industrial growth. He is desirous to put that critical factor on ground so that a new chapter in Nigeria’s economic growth can decisively begin. “As a result of our confidence in the Nigerian economy and our vision for the future development of Nigeria in the steel sector, we decided as usual to further invest in flat rolled steel plant”, Tung said.

It is expected that increased steel production will boost the manufacturing activity in the country and create new job opportunities. Tung is calling for partnerships across sectors of the economy as the essential ingredient in enhancing local capacity. For instance, in order to enhance local capacity in canned food processing in the country, the agricultural and food sectors need to partner with the steel sector, he said.

Tung is ahead in the campaign for Nigerians to patronise locally made goods. WEMCO Group runs with the vision to achieve 100% local sourcing of raw materials for its industries. He said WEMPCO is presently working on manufacturing cans for processed food and drinks, which should discourage importation of cans into the country.

The WEMPCO boss has envisaged that by 2017, all raw materials to be used by the company will be sourced 100 per cent locally. The steel complex will therefore conserve good foreign exchange for Nigeria.