Rangamati Food Products Ltd, once a reputed exporter and local supplier of canned fish, meat, jam and jelly to big buyers such as security forces and airlines, is set to come back to business after a decade.
Thanks to the new investors who took over the helm from the frustrated founders of the brand ZUICY who virtually gave up facing hard times in business.
"We acquired one-third of the defunct company shares from the sponsors at 10% premium over face value and are investing in the brand Rangamati Food for a great revival," said Tania Sultana, the chairperson of the acquirer Expo Group which employed 150 people in its chemical, foam, healthcare accessories and some other businesses in less than a decade of its journey.
The new investors spent over Tk4.5 crore to clear the bank liabilities of Rangamati Food and are investing in BMRE (Balancing, Modernisation, Rehabilitation and Expansion) of its factory so that production starts by September there, she said.
The rise and fall of Rangamati Food Products
Financed by the erstwhile Bangladesh Shilpa Rin Sangstha, Rangamati Foods began agricultural products processing in the fiscal 1982-83 and thrived in both the retail and bulk supply markets.
ZUICY branded ready-to-cook protein items such as canned hilsa and mutton and processed fruits including pineapple slices, jam and juice, mango juice and canned green peas had attracted consumers.
The Bangladesh Navy was procuring ZUICY protein products until 2014, while its fruit products were being supplied to the national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Alongside the local market successes, the company used to export its products to some Middle Eastern markets and the UK, said Tania Sultana.
To continue its modernisation process, the company went public in 2001 and collected Tk2 crore from investors.
It paid back the Shilpa Rin Sangstha loans after the initial public offering (IPO) and invested in new machinery.
However, the product and process excellence might have not been accompanied by prudent financial management within Rangamati Food, believe some stock market veterans.
The company did not withstand the power crisis in the fiscal 2002-03 and incurred a heavy loss of Tk1.4 crore as huge inventories of its food products were contaminated then.
It went to its banker Bangladesh Krishi Bank for additional loans but got rejected.
The financial struggle kept weakening the business and it continued partial production till the fiscal 2012-13 but the factory at Betbunia, Rangamati completely shut down in 2014 as soon as the Bangladesh Navy stopped procuring its canned products.
That was the end.
The factory remained idle with capital depleted and had incurred a cumulative loss of around Tk6 crore by last year, while after the aged first-generation entrepreneurs, none of their successors entered the company to try for a revival.
A decade ago, Rangamati Food was sent to the over-the-counter (OTC) board of the Dhaka Stock Exchange due to non-compliance with regulatory orders to transform its shares into electronic ones from paper shares.
The Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission's master plan to initiate the revival of the old defunct listed firms attracted Expo Group as a new investor.
Clearing restructured bank liabilities and securing bankers' no objection and BSEC consent for share transfer, four Expo Group individuals took over directorship from the sponsors last year.
Tania Sultana, the chairperson of the company, said, "Rangamati Food is a strong brand and we are investing in it."
Alongside resuming its previous product lines, they are also planning to add new product lines, spring water, spices, and tea.
The entire plan is subject to around Tk50 crore investments and if actuated Rangamati Food Products should generate over Tk300 crore revenue by 2024, and it might create 300 jobs.
The company is filling the entire 188 decimal land at the Betbunia factory complex, continuing civil works there, and BMRE of the old German and American machinery aiming for fruit processing by September.
"Thank god, the power supply is not a problem anymore," said Sultana.
The hill tracks are a great source of superior fruits, vegetables and spices and Rangamati Foods would well market them both in the local and export markets, she added.
The company is targeting the tourism hotspots of Chattogram, Cox's Bazar and the hill tracks to capture the lucrative bottled water market there.
No company bottles spring water in Bangladesh and the Rangamati Foods products might be sold a lot in the Maldives, she added.
Machinery would be set up by this year or early 2023 in the water bottling plant, while Indian machinery for the spice processing plant would be set up by December this year, the board chairperson told The Business Standard.
Rangamati Tea is the new directors' dream being chased to be true in a year as the Betbunia factory is geographically well positioned to procure quality tea produced in the Chattogram region.
Expo Group has initiated the second Rangamati Food factory at Trishal, Mymensingh mainly for pineapple canning due to its proximity to the Madhupur pineapple growing hub.
Pineapples produced in the Madhupur area are steadier than those produced in Sylhet or Chattogram and that is why the Trishal factory on 190 decimals of land should be a success in high-quality canned pineapple.
The Trishal project is aimed to be accomplished in 2024 and commercial production there is to begin in 2025, Tania Sultana said.
"We will keep exploring for more products in the coming days," she said, adding that the Rangamati Foods brand should be successful in export markets, alongside the fast-growing local market.
Rangamati Food has plans to raise capital from qualified investors on the SME boards of the bourses to finance its planned projects.