THE new year is here and as we move forward into it, the Jamaica Observer has compiled a list of 22 businesses to watch in 2022. Some are publicly held entities, others are private, but they all are companies we believe will make massive moves this year. Here's our list and why we believe they will be impactful this year.

1) Barita Investments Limited — After another year with fresh equity capital, Barita's balance sheet has expanded from $18.88 billion in 2018 to $90.21 billion in 2021. This has been combined with an aggressive talent hunt of brilliant, young and experienced minds from major companies in an effort to change the game and face of the industry. Barita's marketing spend along with its constant capital market activity have pushed it to become one of the more well knowm brands in Jamaica like Digicel, Wisynco, or KFC. Though Paul Simpson is the deputy chairman of Barita, his vision for the business has been matched by an injection of capital through Cornerstone Financial Holdings Limited and visible growth in financial performance. With the company leading Massy to the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) this month, one can only wonder what is next for the hungry lion.

2) Wisynco Group Limited – The local manufacturing and distribution giant has weathered the worst of the storm that was COVID-19 and has found a new path to continued success. Even with entertainment far from recovering, the reopening of schools and improvement in the tourism sector should augur well for the business. As one of Jamaica's most widely known, fast-moving consumer goods companies, Wisynco should enjoy the fruits of its labour with its new warehouse in Trelawny and increased export demand in other markets.

3) EduFocal Limited – Though known as an education business in the primary school space, EduFocal is quickly establishing itself as a digital solutions provider for training in the corporate space as well. Though schools are returning to face-to-face tutoring this week, the Edufocal Primary Exit Profile academy has changed the game as a full-time online day school. It not only creates a flexible space for parents to adapt to their new lives, but also shifts the local paradigm on the possibilities for education in the future. In conjunction with the Transport Authority and British Caribbean Insurance Company, EduFocal will be deploying its Driver Training platform in a week to onboard more than 10,000 public passenger vehicle drivers. When combined with a possible listing in the future, EduFocal is a business to watch carefully as founders Gordon Swaby and Paul Allen work together to build a great locally based business.

4) TFOB (2021) Limited – 'The Future of Business' 2021 is NCB Financial Group Limited's newest subsidiary focused on financial technology (fintech), with its latest product being an app called Lynk. Apart from successfully registering more than 25,000 individuals in the first week of its launch, it has also facilitated the pilot of the Bank of Jamaica's central bank digital currency. Lead by seasoned NCB executive Vernon James and Chief Growth Officer Dr Luke Foster, it will be pretty interesting to see the development of fintech in Jamaica and, by extension, the Caribbean.

5) Jamaican Teas Limited – Despite being known as a manufacturer, Jamaican Teas is changing its corporate structure one more time to make itself a holding company with ambitions to grow through acquisitions and investments. It spun off its manufacturing arm as a subsidiary called Caribbean Dreams Foods Limited, which it plans to list on the Main Market of the JSE. It has also continued increasing its stake in QWI Investments Limited and building new properties during the real estate boom. With the addition of Diana Blake-Bennett to head manufacturing and opportunities to look for new business, the John Mahfood-led company is a business to watch closely.

6) Outsourcing Management Limited – itel (formerly itelbpo) has had a record three years which have only got better as the company expands into new markets. The home-grown business processing outsourcing company has been growing and is looking to double its team members to 10,000 by 2025. After getting an injection of $606.36 million through PanJam Investments Limited in 2019, itel grew its business by 40 per cent in 2020 with revenues hitting $6.78 billion. In 2021 it expanded to Guyana, which was its ninth country of operation. It raised $3.1 billion through the private placement of a bond that was oversubscribed. With nearshoring becoming a central focus of many companies, itel is positioned to capitalise on the opportunities that will abound in 2022 and beyond.

7) VM Group – The Victoria Mutual (VM) Group has set itself up for new heights as it rebranded and made plans for restructuring in the future. Apart from expanding in Jamaica, it will be going after other Caribbean markets in a bid to improve the investment landscape in those markets. Its subsidiary, VM Investments Limited, has announced its intention to acquire Republic Funds (Barbados) Inc, subject to regulatory approval, while also raising additional capital during the period. Once VM Group gains approval for restructuring from Jamaica's Supreme Court, Bank of Jamaica and members, the VM Group will be in a much better position to unlock its planned growth.

8) The Limners and Bards Limited – The advertising agency and film production company has had a wave of unprecedented growth since listing on the JSE in July 2019. Shareholders have not only been able to reap strong capital gains, but the strong cash flow-generating capacity of the business has seen it pay higher dividends in turn. Each new financial year has seen it break prior-year records as its client base continues to improve and while it finds new ways to bring value to the digital space. With Scope Caribbean Limited set to launch soon, it will be interesting to see how they will set new records in 2022.

9) Caribbean Producers Jamaica – The local distributor of foods and beverages to the tourism sector has been able to recover lost ground as it adapted to the evolving circumstances of the pandemic. Apart from saving an extra US$600,000 per month in expenses, the company has set high ambitions including expanding its Montego Bay store and a potential acquisition in 2022. Even with the Omicron variant lingering, tourism is a vital sector to Jamaica that won't be separated any time soon.

10) Future Energy Source Company (Fesco) – Fesco has not only benefited from the JSE Junior Market's capital and tax break, but also the additional exposure that being listed has brought. With two new service stations open and schools now reopening, Fesco will be in a unique position to sell more fuel to its dealers as it operates its first store on Beechwood Avenue.

11) Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) – SVL has managed to stave off its new competitors through higher prize payouts in the gaming space. With the option for people to bet across the Caribbean and selling off-air time to South Africa, SVL's reach and client base will grow in 2022. It has also started to capitalise on its numerous locations to offer more services, with its fintech operation being integrated through some of these locations. The launch of Supreme Ventures Services Limited will also open new doors for it to provide valuable services to businesses which just might outsource more of their internal operations.

12) Sygnus Group – As it heads into its fifth year of operation, the Sygnus Group has continued to make waves through Sygnus Capital and its managed investment vehicles. Sygnus Capital raised $15 billion in 2020 and led several more notable deals in 2021. Sygnus Real Estate Finance Limited listed on the JSE in 2021 while Sygnus Credit Investments Limited raised additional capital through equity and debt to improve its trajectory. Along with Sygnus Deneb Investments Limited, the Sygnus team is changing the face of alternative investments in the Caribbean and creating value along the way for numerous businesses.

13) GracKennedy (GK) Group – The Jamaican-born business will be turning 100 this year and has made its ambitions for the future well known. While its domestic market has expanded in 2021, GK has been acquiring numerous businesses outside of Jamaica as it builds out its international reach. Though listing part of its business on an international market isn't near, the possibility of a food and financial conglomerate listing internationally shouldn't be underestimated.

14) WiPay Caribbean – The payment processing company has had a successful launch in Jamaica and across the region as more people look for convenient ways to serve the Caribbean markets. Apart from becoming a publicly listed company in the future, WiPay offers the Caribbean a home-grown solution which will allow more businesses and entrepreneurs means to accept digital payments. With its move to set up headquarters in Jamaica, it will be interesting to watch the Aldwyn Wayne-led company take on the new year.

15) MD Link — The telemedicine and online health care business has become synonymous with convenience amid the need for medical services in a COVID-19 world. Lead by Dr Che Bowen, MD Link has created a space for clients to request private medical services from a team of different specialists for their personal needs. One can only wait and see if MD Link will be the game changer for medicine in Jamaica.

16) Bluedot Insights – After successfully acquiring controlling interest near the end of 2021, Larren Peart plans to take Bluedot to the next level with more flexibility in how he leads the company. Since data have become the new oil, more companies should be looking for the services of companies like Bluedot to make their decisions in a more competitive world.

17) Jamaica Producers Group Limited (JP) – The Jeffrey Hall-led business made an impact in 2021 as it acquired three businesses through two joint ventures and a majority stake in Spanish-based CoBeverage Lab. Though the fast-moving consumer goods space in Jamaica is still recovering, JP should benefit from the traffic moving through ports in Jamaica and in Europe. Its snack business in the USA should continue to see more demand as the country remains open.

18) Spur Tree Jamaican Spices – The company successfully raised more than $335 million in capital at the end of 2021 and is expected to apply for listing on the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange shortly. This company generates more than 90 per cent of its revenues from overseas and is set for strong growth going into the new year and beyond as it diversifies from its core wet seasonings to include dry seasonings, ackee, callaloo and juices, among a host of other products. It is also now looking to capture a greater segment of the US market for its products. When listed on the JSE's Junior Market, the company should definitely be a watch as its growth engine gets new cylinders.

19) Salada Foods Jamaica – The coffee manufacturer has seen better days as its 2021 revenue surpassed its pre-COVID figures. In addition, export sales rose by 44 per cent, which indicates stronger demand for Jamaican coffee products. Though it is still in search of a new general manager, the business has fared well considering the 30 per cent local green bean requirement in its instant coffee.

20) GiftMe – The digital card company which is in its start-up phase has garnered significant interest with more than 85 businesses signed up so far and raised capital valuing the business at US$1.8 million. With the gift card space still in its infancy in Jamaica, it will be interesting to see the new business secure more clients and change Jamaican culture.

21) Knutsford Express Services – As fuel prices continue to go up and cross-country travel increases, Knutsford Express is poised to recover well heading into the new year. Its Drax Hall location is open and it is exploring the use of lockers in conjunction with its courier services. With recovery in tourism as well and some improvements in Florida, the Oliver Townsend-led business should see better days in 2022.

22) Fontana – The pharmaceutical and retail business has seen consistent increases in sales with its Waterloo branch being full near major holidays or on a general weekend. With a fresh round of capital through a $500-million bond and a new Portmore location by 2023, it will be interesting to see how the Anne Chang-led business goes forward with rising customer interest.

BY DAVID ROSE Observer business writer davidr@jamaicaobserver.com

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