CECM’s star has risen and keeps rising as it keeps drivers on the road

Berlyn’s acumen grows empire

Caltex Eastern Cape Marketer director Clive Berlyn
Caltex Eastern Cape Marketer director Clive Berlyn
Image: TARALYN McLEAN/FILE

The average person would be delighted to own a service station; two would be better, three a luxury and four an amazing retirement package.

East Londoner Clive  Berlyn  is a long way from average. The company he heads, Caltex Eastern Cape Marketer (CECM), has a supply arrangement with over 100 fuel retailers throughout the Eastern Cape, and owns 42 sites, a big chunk of Caltex’s nearly 900 fuel stations.

CECM is the largest branded marketer in Astron Energy, the BEE group that, together with Glencore, owns Caltex South Africa.

 Berlyn  said the road to CECM started with the Transkei Development Corporation.

“When I left school all I ever wanted to be was a navy diver, but a health issue kept me out of the Defence Force.

“I stumbled into accounting, did my articles, and ended up working in Mthatha. I acquired an interest in three fuel stations with my late partner Richard Ndungane, who owned 51% of our company.”

At the time Chevron and Texaco, two US-based energy multinationals owned Caltex in SA.

They merged in 2001, and in the same year the government instituted equity transformation targets in the fuel industry.

Chevron SA sold 23% to BEE groups, and retained 2% for its staff.

 Berlyn  and Ndungane owed much of their early success to being in the right place at the right time. By the early 2000s CECM tendered for, and won, the master franchisor licence for the eastern half of Eastern Cape, totalling 34 retailers.

CECM earnings were based mainly on a rebate for every litre of fuel sold.

CECM controlled quality assurance, training, best business acumen, marketing and legal compliance for the outlets. It became the largest Caltex master franchisor in the Africa, Middle East and Pakistan region.

By 2000, Chevron had over 800 outlets. In a country as vast as SA it was a challenge nurturing and growing the brand, especially in the more remote areas. None was more remote than eastern Eastern Cape. Despite this, the Caltex star was evident in most small villages and towns on the major roads.

Fortunately for the Caltex image,  Berlyn  and Ndungane were Transkei veterans.

By partnering with them, Chevron was able to ensure a dedicated presence to support and build the brand, and at the same time advance Chevron’s BEE strategy.

By 2011 CECM added a further 11 retailers to the network. In 2012 a new agreement with Chevron saw an additional 41 retailers join the network, which included East London and Port Elizabeth.

Another five sites followed in 2013, and six more in 2015. Fuel sales growth matched site increases, and are now nearly five million litres a day, every day; that equates to 120 tankers, with a 40,000-litre capacity.

In 2017 Chevron Global (USA) sold its remaining interest to the Chinese state-owned entity Sinopec.

However, in 2018, Astron Energy exercised an existing pre-emptive right to buy Chevron’s shares, which it did with financial help from Glencore.

CECM shareholding is 50% African Pioneer Group, 32.5% Jock  Berlyn  Investments ( Berlyn ’s company), 12% Ndungane Heirs, 4% Bros  Berlyn  Investments, and 1% Langamoya (Pty) Ltd.

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