In accepting the award for ‘Forestry Investment Company of the Year’ for a third consecutive year from The European, Asia Plantation Capital Group’s CEO, Barry Rawlinson, displayed customary humour and optimism.
“We’ve received plenty of laurels over the years,” he said, “the problem is that we don’t get much time to rest on them. Our industry is so dynamic and so competitive that the need to innovate constantly – and keep pace with emerging trends – prAesents a series of ongoing challenges. The good news is that we’re already proven – to our stakeholders, the industry as a whole, as well as ourselves – that we are perfectly positioned to handle the situation and flourish.”
It’s been a good year for Asia Plantation Capital (APC) and indeed the entire APC Group of companies, but picking up yet another award is not something that is ever taken for granted.
APC has returned more than $10m to clients to date and with well over one million Aquilaria trees planted and in the ground, the mid to long-term business strategy of securing long-term offtake agreements for the marketable products derived from the trees looks very encouraging.
APC’s vertically integrated business model and its “From Soil…to Oil…to You” mantra has almost become an industry standard, as more and more companies around the world realise that environmental awareness and corporate social responsibility have become key tenets for modern businesses and increasingly attractive for socially conscious consumers.
APC owns or manages the plantations in Southeast Asia on which the Aquilaria species of tree is grown. Cultivated, nurtured and harvested sustainably, the inner heartwood of these trees produces an aromatic resin that, when expertly distilled, is turned into a luscious oil called oud, which has become the ingredient of choice across the fragrance world.
APC supplies its oud to the international perfume industry, but has gone a step further in its commitment to vertical integration, in its guarantee to supply the fast-growing, independent brand, Fragrance Du Bois – whose innovative, already iconic products are setting new benchmarks for quality and creativity.
Fragrance Du Bois, with signature boutiques already firmly established in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Geneva and in Paris at the House of Jovoy, opened no less than six new outlets towards the end of 2016, thereby expanding its presence and reach in some of the world’s most prominent fashion and luxury goods capitals.
And this has not been all for the young, vibrant brand, with Fragrance Du Bois now examining the effectiveness of oud in the world of skin care and associated products, helping to establish a new company, Oud Essentials™, whose products will be available on international markets in the coming weeks, creating yet another chapter in an evolving story that has captured the imagination of investors and conscious consumers alike.
It is all part of a business model that ensures control at every link in the supply chain and enables all the companies in the group to maintain the high standards of quality and professionalism for which they have become renowned.
“More and more people are buying into our story,” said Gary Crates, APC Group CEO, Europe, “and this gives us a great opportunity to further develop our operations and continue making products that resonate with our customers and stakeholders. This includes expanding our plantation operations in Malaysia and making sure that the technologies we use are state-of-the-art. We have our own distilleries in Malaysia and this past year has witnessed all the necessary upgrading to ensure that the oud we produce is invariably 100% pure and perfectly refined.”
An ever-increasing number of people these days are diversifying their portfolios, and looking for ‘alternatives’ that provide more than just decent returns. Forestry is now becoming an important part of the investment profiles for significant institutional and private investors, and Asia Plantation Capital is now perceived as both an industry leader and a standard bearer for a more socially and environmentally conscious way of doing business.
Last year APC welcomed more than 300 visitors from France and Switzerland to their plantations in Thailand and Malaysia – the vast majority of whom joined the company’s ever-expanding European clientele. APC’s business model is clearly resonating with both investors and customers, who are keen to consider ways in which to spread risk and embrace the ‘people, planet, profit’ business philosophy.
There are more exciting developments in the pipeline, with recent news that the government of Malaysia has bestowed upon Asia Plantation Capital’s Scientific Advisory Board a grant to research and develop oud and agarwood as a treatment for a variety of forms of cancer.
The research, which is headed up by Professor Dr Yumi Z Has-Yun Hashim, APC’s Scientific Board advisor and an Associate Professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Kulliyyah of Engineering, is both ground-breaking and potentially significant, as the remarkable qualities and properties of oud – that have been recognised by generations of people for thousands of years – are now beginning to be appreciated by the modern scientific world.
“We have always been a company that is committed to research and development,” said Rawlinson, “and bringing oud, as well as the plight of the Aquilaria tree to the wider attention of the world has been part of our mission statement since inception. The work that Professor Yumi and her team are doing has already demonstrated some very encouraging results and is another facet to what we are striving to achieve as a company and indeed a group.”
“Receiving awards is always a wonderful experience,” concludes Crates, “but while the plaudits are great, we see this more in terms of the recognition we are receiving for our commitment to the cause. Not only of helping to save an endangered species of tree in the wild, but also making sure that our stakeholders have a variety of options that appeal to them in the current economic climate. Encouragement is always good when it comes to reinforcing the belief that we’re on the right track in what is an important journey for everyone involved in our group of companies.”