An unusual combination of skills is to be put to good use by two European companies in a bid to expand their business in Nigeria.
It is rare to see a food company such as Irish dairy group Glanbia join forces with a firm from a completely unrelated industry, but this is exactly what it has done with the creation of a 50-50 joint venture with PZ Cussons, the British group best known for its Imperial Leather soap brand.
But the partnership is not as bizarre as it might at first seem, for Cussons has a significant presence in Nigeria and, more importantly, a wealth of experience in marketing its products there - in fact, it has 100 years of experience there, as well as considerable marketing, sales and distribution capabilities throughout Africa and the Far East.
Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will build a new $20 million facility in Nigeria which will produce evaporated milk and milk powder for the local market.
The new facility will initially be used for the further processing of powdered milk sourced primarily from Glanbia's plants in Ireland. The factory will be capable of handling 35,000 tonnes of milk products per annum and will be commissioned in early 2005.
Not surprisingly, Glanbia will be responsible for running the processing plant, while Cussons will handle the marketing and distribution of the products, using its existing network there.
John Moloney, managing director of Glanbia, said that the project was the latest element in the Irish firm's ambitious growth strategy which has seen it move into the whey products sector in the US this year and a joint venture with Uruguay's Conaprole covering various Latin American markets from a base in Mexico.
"It offers a relatively low risk entry into a significant growth market," he said. "It also provides an opportunity to add value to our Irish milk processing operations by accessing new markets."