While some people wait for opportunities, others strike while the iron is hot.
A focus on growth through business was part of the upbringing for the Williams children who spent many years at the family's lubricant business. With faith and confidence, the company grew its operations in the western end of Jamaica while its leader worked assiduously to fulfil the aim of becoming a publicly listed company. Today's Corporate Profile looks at Regency Petroleum Limited (RPL) and its founder Andrew Williams.
Williams grew up in the western end of Jamaica where he was baptised into the operations of business while assisting his parents run a family-owned lubricant outlet. His father pioneered the lubricant business and also ran a company involved in trading auto parts and tyres. Whenever he returned home from boarding school with his brother and sister, he'd spend time working at the family business.
After completing a degree in accounting at The University of the West Indies, Mona, he returned shortly after to work in the business. Here he developed entrepreneurial skills and used his experience to form Master Lube Limited with his wife, attorney-at-law Jeneive Sabdul-Williams. The company is involved in the importation of lubricants from other Caricom (Caribbean Community) countries.
However, he had a yearning for something greater.
"While in construction — I'm an entrepreneur by nature and always seeking out noble ventures to do — I came across an advertisement in the paper for an LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] distribution dealer in a certain region where I was living at the time. So, I called the number and then I realised that it was a schoolmate's number in my phone. He said he'd love for me to come onboard; he'd send down some gas in the morning and I'd just distribute it to these persons for him. He had a filling plant at the time," Williams told the Business Observer in an interview.
After distributing the LPG, Williams became enthralled at the opportunity which existed in the business. He mentioned the business to others and how it could provide an income to people who didn't have much work at home since it didn't require much human resources.
"Just this simple thing within two hours and you make a profit. It's a small profit, but the fact that you made a profit that you could basically single out your expense, single out your purchases, purchase stock and still end up with a net profit in that instance," Williams outlined.
Having realised the potential for success, Williams sought to move up the network for the fuel business in Jamaica. He became a partner in Central Supplies and Construction, which trades as Central Gases, and began distributing LPG for IGL in 2009. This involved Williams distributing the fuel to dealers who would then sell it to the end consumer.
"We had a distribution network for IGL. We thought we had reached the stage where we wanted a filling plant. In our estimation and based on the industry, a filling plant at the time would have been the pinnacle of LPG sales. I always wanted to try and reach the highest stage," Williams added.
He reached out to IGL about the possibility of setting up a filling plant, but they did not have the room to endorse a new filling plant. He approached GasPro who assisted in providing gas to sell, but they were only able to purchase bulk petroleum from a marketing company.
After making inquiries with the relevant ministry and not intending to wait on a marketing company, Williams took a leap of faith and decided to start his own company. He wanted to use a distinct colour that was eye-catching and a pronounced name which reflected their intention to compete against other multinational companies.
The company chose its iconic green, black and orange colours along with the name 'Regency', which was not being used at the time, after conducting a quick Google search. Regency Petroleum Limited was registered in May 2018 but began operations in January 2019.
"As the average business person would say, it's so risky, spend so much money and we already have three established companies. You can actually negotiate with them better now because we actually have our marketing licence. I wanted to see a Jamaican company — and I'm very patriotic — and I want to see Jamaica come out with its own product and cooking gas cylinder," Williams stated
The company received the necessary approvals from the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology and Bureau of Standards Jamaica, and signed up to the loyalty programme offered by Petrojam as it became a marketing company in the LPG sector. The owners found an overseas supplier which could supply them with packed cylinders and ordered their first three containers with two investors providing seed capital.
In order to build its brand, RPL gave away the cylinders at no cost for its retail segment where it sells 25-pound and 100-pound cylinders. It, however, found favour with businesses in western Jamaica for its bulk petroleum ranging from 100-gallon to 2,000-gallon bulk tanks. This came with its own risk considering the company recorded a minor net loss after generating $44.79 million in sales for 2019.
"We started losing the cylinders as expected. You find households having three to five cylinders and found where cylinders were being damaged. Fortunately for us, we overcame this and established our brand. We have the loyalty of our customers by ensuring that [we're] offering the cylinders at an excellent price and know what our dealers want. They want to ensure a stable profit margin and a fairly stable price when they come to us," Williams explained.
Despite the company beginning to make its mark, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the west hard, which was reliant on the tourism sector which was devastated as the boarders were closed. This resulted in demand decreasing during that time as everyone conserved on cash.
However, a late friend approached Andrew and gave him an idea that would boost RPL's sales and make it a favourite stop among taxis.
"Man, you have to start selling some 90 gas because the people with the cars have their own cylinders with their vehicles, which is the gas tank, as opposed to a cooking gas cylinder...We started selling the 90 very competitively and the rest is history," Williams said, recalling reason to start selling automotive fuel at the company's head office.
Despite the country experiencing an economic fallout from the pandemic, the introduction of the service station and sale of 90 octane was a blessing for RPL as the company revenue grew to $193.63 million in 2020 with a net profit of $13.65 million. Even with the numerous lockdown days seen in 2021, RPL continued to scale and reach new heights as its revenue topped $606.62 million and net profit grew to $58.95 million.
The company introduced diesel fuel in January.
As the company prepared for the next part of its growth phase, it worked with its financial advisor to prepare an initial public offering (IPO) to list on the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE). Williams noted that the company's intention was to always go public as it fits into RPL's operational model and business plan.
"You must have integrity and ambition. I'm a God-fearing person and you have to have faith in God. If you put God first in everything that you do, all that I said about integrity, honesty and going straightforward will be second nature. My vision is that in all that we have done with Regency, we have put God first. All the disappointments and challenges that come along, we have put God first and have had Him in front leading us."
After separating from its financial advisor Mayberry Investments Limited in early 2022, RPL engaged GK Capital Management Limited in April to work on its IPO and assist with sourcing the capital needed for its Paradise Pen service station. GK Investments Limited provided a loan of $121 million in September, which fuelled the company's plans just ahead of the planned IPO. It will also be opening a leased service station in Negril as it expands it automotive fuel plans.
The company intends to clear its balance sheet of all debt, complete the Paradise Pen location and purchase additional cylinders to satisfy the growing demand in the LPG space. The IPO valued $287.16 million with $170.70 million of fresh equity coming from the public, its employees and key strategic partners. It would also provide them with a clear runway to source future growth capital, whether debt or equity.
Williams' faith paid off as RPL received over $1 billion in subscriptions from over 10,000 applications in just eight days after the prospectus was published, exceeding the capitalisation amount by more than $700 million. The company's basis of allotment is set to follow shortly with its listing to come subsequently. It would become the 47th company to list on the Junior Market and sixth company for this year.
"Ensure that whatever you do, there's only one way to do it and it's the right and proper way. Follow all rules and regulations. It's not about the profitability alone and don't try to take the short way out. Anything that you're going to succeed in, it has to be done in the right and proper way following all the rules and regulations. You have to be ambitious and dream," Williams said, encouraging upcoming entrepreneurs on their own journey.