The IOI Group: Creating a Malaysian Palm Oil Multinational
The case discusses the story of the IOI Group, one of the largest palm oil players in Malaysia, which has seen rapid growth in the past two decades. Family-controlled since 1982, the IOI Group's main businesses initially were property and palm plantations. As a relative latecomer in the palm oil industry, it grew both organically and through acquisitions, and, in 2010, had sales of about US$4.3 billion and employed 30,000 people. Over the years, the IOI Group moved away from producing crude palm oil (CPO), a key commodity, and pursued a strategy of vertical integration by moving into downstream activities such as food ingredients manufacturing and oleochemicals. This transformed IOI from a Malaysian plantation company to a global ingredients manufacturer, making IOI a good example of a so-called "emerging market multinational." The case takes the point of view of the second generation family leader who is currently in charge of the downstream businesses, and discusses three challenges he faces in IOI's transformation process: 1) the issue of optimizing and integrating the global value chain; 2) the most suitable way to coordinate a multinational company with substantial global sales and operations; and 3) adaptation to changing needs of global customers. All this is supported by extensive information on the changing dynamics in the palm oil industry, where emerging market players are moving up the value chain, snapping up manufacturing assets from global fast-moving consumer goods companies, such as Unilever, while the latter increasingly focus on branded goods and seek to exit the lower margin and capital intensive manufacturing of ingredients. Students are asked to analyze the changing industry dynamics and provide recommendations given the goal to make IOI a leading palm oil player.
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