Maris is a permanent capital vehicle with a strategy to grow its holdings into a portfolio of multi-country businesses across Africa - led by excellent teams operating to international standards. Operating as a permanent capital vehicle means our strategy is not dictated by the pre-determined life-cycle of a fund, but instead the underlying needs and growth of our businesses. We believe this leads to better business decisions and long-term shareholder value .
We focus on the African SME sector (<$15m Enterprise Value) as these businesses offer the strongest growth potential and benefit the most from our direct involvement. Our hands-on investment approach and day-to-day operational involvement ensures significant long term growth of our holdings and the overall group. We generally only invest in proven business models which do not exist in the countries we operate, or are being done poorly.
We concentrate on East & Southern Africa and have invested across nine Sub Saharan African countries that offer significant growth opportunities. We balance investments across more stable diversified economies alongside higher growth, but more volatile, commodity dependent economies.
Our focus is on our four core divisions. However, we will occasionally look at investments outside these key strategic areas. In particular, if they are focused on Africa’s long term growth. We target the “sweet spot” of African SME business size (<$15m Enterprise Value). These offer the strongest growth potential, high returns, and significant benefits through consolidation into a larger group. They also receive less attention from larger finance institutions and funds.
We like high to focus on high margin businesses and we typically have no debt or very low leverage in our businesses. We ensure control of our holdings and typically are only interested in controlling stakes. We currently have equity control of over 90% of our holdings and exercise significant management control over almost all of them.
We enter new markets slowly, building up small exposures. We then increase our investments over time as we strengthen our networks and manage risk. A high proportion of our investments are also asset backed with over 70% of all Maris NAV in tangible physical assets. This ranges from around 50% in Mining and Agriculture and Forestry (excluding resource or biological assets) to over 80% in Property Services and Business Services.
We limit local currency exposure. Over 90% of the group revenues are either in USD or pegged to the USD. These are matched by 70% of expenses in USD, while the balance is in local currency. We have a strong focus on social responsibility. Through our training, community and environmental programmes we aim to maximise the environmental and social benefit of our investments alongside generating returns to shareholders
All of our investee businesses adhere to the IFC performance standards.
We have deep expertise in the both starting-up businesses and their management through rapid growth and expansion. Maris’ regional footprint and group structure allows us to set up businesses quicker and at less cost than stand-alone entities. Synergies across the group support each business’ growth and enable us to manage political, environmental and currency risks. Our footprint across the region also enables lower risk geographical expansion.
We offer strong, hands on management support for each of our business. We also provide back office functions for finance, procurement, governance, E&S reporting and HR across many of our companies. This provides expertise, controls, consistency and cost reduction through economies of scale.
PARTNERSHIP WITH BUSINESS OWNERS
Maris develops strong partnerships with business owners and founders, both through the co-founding of businesses as well as supporting existing companies through their growth and expansion phases. We strongly believe in developing a true partnership with the business owners/founders to help them achieve a shared long term vision for the businesses. We generally do not “cash out” business owners, but instead structure our transactions to align interests and jointly share in the value that we can create together.
Maris are long-term investors and while we take an active approach to managing our portfolio to ensure the best risk-adjusted returns, we are generally not looking for short term gains through buying and flipping investments. Maris is not interested in investments that rely on financial engineering for quick gains.