Unity as
a Group

“In many respects, I do believe construction could play a key role in leading Mauritius to recovery. Given this context, there is no doubt that focusing on construction will provide economic relief to the country, at least over the short term.“

Group CEO


The Group’s performance last year was certainly a milestone. having achieved a record revenue of Rs 3.2 billion for the first time in our history, we began FY2020 with confidence and optimism. Between July and December 2019, all our businesses performed well, with the exception of Gros Cailloux. The trends and financial indicators during this period suggest that we were on track to generate yet another year of record revenues.

Notwithstanding a drop in the performance of our core businesses in the first two months of 2020 and the sharp decline we experienced after the lockdown was announced in March 2020, the year was marked by positive developments in many areas of our businesses:

  • We pursued our digital agenda and deployed Office 365 across the Group, which represents an important milestone in our digital transformation journey. The roll-out of this new software was also well-timed, as one of the software’s biggest advantages is the ability to work from anywhere, on any device. This was especially beneficial during the lockdown, as our employees were able to swiftly transition to remote working with easy access to important documents and applications, thus enabling us to continue communicating and collaborating efficiently.
  • We appointed a Head of Operations for our core businesses, whose role is to ensure synergies between our entities. Equipped with a bird’s eye view of UBP, we believe he will be instrumental in helping us achieve our performance objectives.
  • We obtained our permit to operate the semi-mobile crushing plant at La Mecque. The idea is to leverage its mobility properties to maximise productivity and lower our operating costs, but also to improve our environmental impact.
  • We decided to consider exiting from our subsidiary in Sri Lanka following years of facing administrative difficulties and institutional weaknesses.
  • The situation in Madagascar remains worrying, even more so in the COVID-19 era. Our activities came to a complete stop and have resumed since, but the country continues to be under a state of health emergency and gatherings of 50 people remain prohibited. This puts a damper on an already complex situation, which has prompted us to rethink our future there. We aim to reach a conclusive decision in the coming year.
  • Drymix obtained its ISO 9001:2015 certification in 2018, which attests to the quality of our products and our desire to align ourselves with high international standards. Soon, it will also be the island’s and Indian Ocean’s first laboratory to obtain the ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for the testing of tile adhesives. Indeed, Research & Development forms the bedrock of Drymix’s ability to consistently innovate. For instance, the “Ti Béton” concrete bags launched last year received a very positive response from the market. This gives us fresh impetus to continue innovating and focusing on product differentiation in a drive to help our consumers undertake their DIY projects. Alongside this, we increased our shareholding in Drymix from 51% to 54.6% during the year.
  • Drymix’s subsidiary in Réunion Island, Drymat, officially opened its doors in August 2019. In collaboration with our local partner who holds 20% of shares in the company, we have secured a strong footing in the market.
  • We opened our sixth Espace Maison store in Beau Vallon in November 2019. Its distinguishing feature is the full-fledged hardware store designed for construction contractors and other individuals. The area, which we named Espace Pro, was built with the customer journey in mind: from its convenient layout and signage through the aisles, to the simplified check-out process, all touch points were mapped out to create a unique retail experience. This is complemented by a mobile app, Club Espace Pro, dedicated to professionals in the industry. The Beau Vallon store is set to be the pilot project, which we then aim to replicate across all our Espace Maison stores after taking into account customer feedback and tracking our KPIs.

On the downside, Gros Cailloux experienced yet another difficult year, with low yields in our vegetable-growing activities. Despite a 36.4% decrease in our output of sugar produced, a series of incentives granted by the government to small growers enabled us to generate an improved profit in this activity. In line with our ‘Smart Agriculture’ strategy, we installed a new irrigation system with the aim of increasing our efficiency through a more uniform distribution of water. Our results for Gros Cailloux therefore also take into account this substantial investment of Rs 7.9 million.

Overall, we delivered on our commitments across our five strategic pillars: (1) capitalise on synergy levers and ensure efficient processes, (2) ensure a continuous output of innovative products and services, (3) ensure customer engagement and satisfaction, (4) build a workforce able to seize opportunities and (5) continue to build a strong reputation around all our brands.


Before providing you with a summary of our performance over the entire financial year, I believe it is important to first offer you a snapshot of our results between July 2019 and February 2020, before the lockdown went into effect. You will observe that the difference before and after COVID-19 is stark.

As stated earlier, the Group began the year on a very promising note and generated a revenue of Rs 1.8 billion between July and December 2019, compared to Rs 1.7 billion for the same period the previous year. This 6.1% growth in revenue was driven by a solid performance in our core business and retail segments locally. Espace Maison, for its part, recorded a revenue of Rs 540.1 million, a 7.6% rise compared to the previous year. Our Group operating profit stood at Rs 188.2 million, up by 1.4% compared to December 2019.

Our revenue and profitability for the first two months of 2020 were somewhat impacted by bad weather conditions and delays encountered by ongoing major projects, which added to an increase in the production cost of our core business. Upon the announcement of the lockdown in March 2020, we witnessed a decline in revenue due to the halt of all our operations and activities. The virus was spreading at a rapid pace and social distancing measures were implemented strictly. Our priority was, and remains, the safety and well-being of our employees, and we made a clear decision to not reopen our production sites unless we were certain we could do so safely. Retail stores that were deemed non-essential were forbidden from operating, and public gatherings were banned. Fortunately, Espace Maison was able to supply pet food through home delivery, before being authorised to open its shops and operate under a contactless Click & Collect model only. These restrictions impacted our overall revenue, which declined by 47.4% to Rs 422.5 million for the quarter to June 2020 (compared to Rs 803.7 million for the same quarter in 2019). After obtaining the Work Access Permits (WAPs) for our production and sales activities in May 2020, our revenue took a turn for the better, increasing progressively in June 2020 to reach Rs 2.9 billion for the financial year (FY2019 – Rs 3.2 billion).

Espace Maison’s online presence played an important role in helping us offset part of our losses. Despite this, our performance for the year was impacted by exceptional stock provisions and by the expected low performance of our new Beau Vallon store.

Gros Cailloux’s vegetable-growing activities were affected by a drop in yield and prices, despite an appreciable increase in agricultural produce since the end of lockdown as consumers have begun favouring local producers. The leisure park’s activities have naturally seen a sharp decline, a trend we expect to subsist throughout 2020 and even 2021. Our performance was also impacted by an adverse valuation of our consumable biological assets. Consequently, our Group profit decreased substantially from Rs 207.3 million for FY2019 to Rs 21.9 million for the financial year under review.

Even though our budget for FY2021 is based on a level of activity we used to generate three years ago, we take comfort in knowing that had we continued on our trend, despite the unfavourable weather conditions in the beginning of 2020, the Group would have generated 8% more revenue than in the previous year. This leaves us with the confidence that our strategic directions are sound.


It is no understatement to say that the world has changed dramatically in 2020. The speed and magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. A tragic number of people have lost their lives despite countries implementing nation-wide lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing measures. But beyond the human toll, the economic and social damage is already alarming. Production flows are disrupted, demand for non-essential goods is plummeting, and income losses and financial hardships are bringing SMEs and households to their knees. Sadly, I believe we have yet to face the full force of the downstream effects of the pandemic, like deepening existing inequalities, and that the shock will be felt for years to come.

As the pandemic reached Mauritius in March 2020, the government ordered a two-week complete lockdown, which was later extended, as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the virus. As a result of these bold measures, we became free of COVID-19 as early as May 2020. This is a huge feat given that Mauritius was identified as being one of the most “high risk” countries by the World Health Organisation due to our high volume of international travel and population density.

But before I dive into the current state of our business, I want to start with what I consider to be our greatest asset: our people. Despite the environment of uncertainty and fear that was prevailing, I remain amazed by the speed at which our team members reacted from the very onset. Our employees’ instinctive reaction was to step up to support our company, each other and customers. They took up their respective responsibilities with a level of willingness, ownership and motivation I could not have imagined. Many voluntarily left the comfort of their homes to secure our production sites overnight, with only one thing in mind: the safety of our people. It was nothing short of incredible to witness our team members display such kindness and solidarity even in moments of heightened stress. One indicator that clearly illustrates this is the Employee Engagement, which increased from 75% to 78% in the survey carried out this year. This only reinforces my belief in the values we have been instilling into our culture. The UBP Group truly is one big family. The very next day, we began setting up a plan of action to ensure business continuity. Our first priority was to secure our sites and offices and implement a Work-from-Home protocol. I must say the transition was smooth, thanks to our digitization efforts over the years. Office 365 was particularly useful in keeping everyone connected and productive.

Next, we set up a Facebook page through which we could maintain frequent communication with our employees. It is in times of uncertainty that we realise how much our employees depend on us as trusted sources. We were determined to be as frank and transparent as possible, with regard to what we knew, but also what we did not know. Through video messages, we opened an ongoing line of dialogue, providing information on how to remain safe and maintain social distancing, how to balance the blurring work/home boundaries and what priorities would guide our decisions. All our leaders, myself included, made themselves accessible to our staff so we could maintain a sense of calm and reassurance. This is when our shared sense of purpose and humanity really revealed themselves. In our common enemy that is COVID-19, we reaffirmed our unity as a Group.

Third, we began exploring scenarios for business recovery and resilience: how can we leverage our technology and strengths to adapt to the new normal? How do we address emerging customer needs? How do we maintain our cash flow? Certain businesses, like Espace Maison, were more equipped than others to kickstart their activities. Having launched the latest version of its e-commerce website not long before lockdown, Espace Maison was relatively prepared to serve the urgent needs of customers. The challenge was that with no time to run the necessary tests prior to launch, we knew we would likely encounter technical difficulties. Under the circumstances, speed was of the essence and failure was not an option: with families confined to their homes, demand for Royal Canin products escalated and the number of online queries multiplied. We therefore carried on operating. To our pleasant surprise, Espace Maison’s team rose to the challenge and managed to resolve the issues along the way, all while offering high levels of customer service. Despite the technical setbacks and delays, our clients, many of whom are regular shoppers at Espace Maison, were appreciative of our sincere desire to help. Through our humane approach, we forged a stronger bond with them in this period. In fact, one of the unexpected benefits of this crisis was the conversion of customers who were previously resistant to using digital platforms. Espace Maison experienced a significant surge in the number of users during the lockdown, which has translated into a more widespread adoption of our e-commerce platform since then.

Having met the initial challenges of the pandemic, the next step was to establish a set of Back to Work guidelines for our different activities, which clearly outline the various phases of gradually returning back to the workplace once the lockdown was lifted. All departments and functions were apprised of the new mandatory safety regulations, as well as the new practices in the areas of logistics, meetings or even customer-facing interactions.

In June 2020, our core management team got together to review our strategic priorities. We defined a short-term COVID Plan with the objective of building more agility into our organisational structures, leadership, culture, products and services. A major component of this roadmap is investing in and empowering our key personnel so they are equipped with the skills and confidence to not only capitalise on emerging opportunities, but also respond to threats. This roadmap ultimately brings us a step closer to our long-term strategy, which remains as relevant as ever, even in today’s disruptive landscape.

“I believe the greatest challenge we face is remaining profitable in a world ridden with uncertainty, while also upholding our promise of supporting our employees and preserving employment in all our subsidiaries.”

Even as we confront this uncertain climate, whose impact is clearly visible in our figures for the year, we must recognise that we did not face the same challenges as businesses in other industries. Barring two months of standstill, our activities were quick to resume in May 2020. In fact, I believe UBP is uniquely positioned: we can use this window of opportunity between the first wave of the pandemic and the predicted second wave to develop adequate strategies that will, at the very least, cushion the blow. This is not the case for industries like tourism and hospitality, that are still suffering from the absence of tourists.


In many respects, I do believe construction could play a key role in leading Mauritius to recovery, especially because the impact of the pandemic on some of the island’s core industries have been far more severe.

Tourism and hospitality, being dependent on tourist arrivals, are the hardest hit and will likely be among the last sectors to resume their activities. Even since our borders have reopened, tourists have been hesitant to travel due to tighter budgets and health-related fear. Alongside this, the financial services sector’s reputation has been tainted by the European Commission’s decision to place Mauritius on its list of high-risk countries for money laundering and the financing of terrorist networks. All of this is exacerbated by our over reliance on imports to procure raw materials or even food for the population.

Given this context, there is no doubt that focusing on construction will provide economic relief to the country, at least over the short term. The government has thrown a lifeline to our industry through an investment of Rs 41 billion and initiatives like the building of social housing units, bus terminals, roads, bridges, dams, hospitals and the completion of the Metro System and fly over road projects. Beyond these measures, these large-scale projects are labor-intensive and contribute to generating employment. This is critical, as the social and psychological impact of unemployment cannot be overstated. The loss of jobs is not only the loss of income; it also strips people of dignity and meaning. If placing construction at the heart of our recovery plan will preserve thousands of jobs, I support it wholeheartedly.

This context seems encouraging and I believe UBP is heading into this new financial year on stronger footing than many other businesses. But we must not rest on our laurels. That’s because in the best or worst of times, the health of the construction industry is tied to the state of the economy. Declining tourist arrivals, the depreciation of our currency against the USD and the EURO and a high inflation rate means that private sector businesses will hold off on large expenditures; likewise, the private dwellings market, which makes up about 60% of our core business revenue, is increasingly reluctant to spend large amounts of money on anything beyond essentials. If that persists, our Group will not come out of this crisis unscathed.

For this recovery to be durable, there is an urgent need to tackle the existing challenge of unskilled labour in our industry. A key element of the government’s plan is an emphasis on the development of skills—an initiative we strongly support. There is no better time to train the new generation of workers in skills related to construction and other ancillary services so we can revitalise the industry and ensure we achieve sustainable success.


I believe the greatest challenge we face is remaining profitable in a world ridden with uncertainty, while also upholding our promise of supporting our employees and preserving employment in all our subsidiaries.

Gros Cailloux will no doubt be one of our focus areas this year. With reduced activities in landscaping and leisure, and a resulting decline in revenue, our priority will be to increase our agricultural capacity and capitalise on the growing trend of consumers choosing to purchase locally-grown produce, particularly those that are certified by ‘Made in Moris.’ In parallel, we are also seeking new opportunities to enhance our offering in terms of leisure activities. Overall, we anticipate FY2021 to be another challenging year for Gros Cailloux.

In parallel, the retail industry is expected to plummet due to a disrupted global supply chain, rising import prices and extremely unfavourable foreign exchange rates. Consumer habits have shifted and indicators suggest that these habits will endure beyond the crisis. As a direct result, Espace Maison should experience declining revenues as from January 2021. We are in the process of revising our sales strategy in line with new customer behaviours and a different risk environment.

It is unclear how the pandemic will play out or what the longer-term economic impacts will be. With no visibility into what the future holds, we are focusing our attention on our strengths and core capabilities:

  • The management team has taken protective measures to embark on a Group-wide cost containment programme, which we believe is key in navigating the current landscape. To this end, we are either deferring or cancelling a number of planned investments so we can manage our cash flow more carefully. These do not include digital innovations, which we in fact intend to accelerate. Our goal, ultimately, is to ensure that our cost structure can support the Group over the next 12 months. But cost-cutting to us does not mean simply tightening the belt; it also means redirecting our costs to the right growth drivers. This brings me to my second point.
  • Containing our costs will grant us the agility and flexibility to pursue growth-focused strategies. For this, organisational efficiency is crucial. We are reconsidering the effectiveness of our operating model, products, markets and channels in a way that focuses on high-value and future-oriented projects. Our newly onboarded Financial Controller and Risk & Compliance Officer will both be instrumental in helping us achieve these goals and build resilience so that UBP can thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

Security is yet another of our big challenges. On a sad note, I am devastated to share that we lost a valuable member of our UBP family in a tragic accident on October 14, 2019. No words can adequately describe our sorrow at the demise of Swaley Cheekhoory, who spent 31 long years with the Group. Unfortunately, production sites are by nature prone to certain risks and hazards. To those who have lost a dear friend and colleague in Swaley, allow me to reassure you that we are redoubling our efforts to strengthen our safety procedures. Beyond the routine checks by Health and Safety officers, we are in the process of setting up a Health and Safety Strategic Committee, whose role will be to maximise employee safety. On behalf of the Group, I would like to convey our sincere condolences to Swaley’s family.


I believe the greatest challenge we face is remaining profitable Every crisis, whether it is the 2008 financial crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic, has presented opportunities to reshape our economies and societies in lasting ways. If played out well, a crisis of this scale could result in long-term success. Our reactions and actions during the lockdown have revealed that we have the capabilities to adapt to unexpected situations: we swiftly migrated to new ways of working, with virtual meetings and other forms of digital collaboration becoming standard.


The crisis has accelerated existing trends and created an environment in which digitalisation and innovation are king. The e-commerce activity peaked during lockdown as online shopping became the safest and most convenient way to procure necessities. Espace Maison’s performance illustrates this trend. It experienced a spike in demand from existing users and new demographics, like older generations, who continue to favour online purchases today. Knowing that consumer behaviour has altered permanently and that competition has heightened, we are multiplying our efforts to provide a seamless digital experience to our customers: we are continuing to upgrade our mobile platform and remain connected to our clients via social media, while ensuring that our brick-and-mortar shops offer innovative features that enhance the in-store shopping experience.

Beyond e-commerce, our strategy entails consistent digitalisation along our value chain. Notable examples include the migration of our head office server to cloud services and the implementation of a new CRM for Drymix, UBP and Espace Maison. In conjunction with our UBP 2.0 project, which is centred on digitalising our production processes to gain in efficiency and agility, we are developing solutions that will no doubt enable our employees to carry out their day-to-day functions from anywhere and be more nimble to customer needs. I am proud that our efforts and investments in a robust digital transformation strategy over the last few years are paying off, but we still need to progress to be ahead of the curve in this area.


As consumers are increasingly recognising the need to prioritise local brands in a drive towards more self-sufficiency, this presents a major opportunity for our activities at Gros Cailloux. We aim to meet the growing demand for local produce by continuing to develop our smart agriculture techniques.

Consumers have also paused to reflect on their consumption as they lose confidence in the global food-supply chain. They are now shopping more mindfully and cost-consciously, choosing to go down the DIY path. This is not only applicable to home improvement projects, but also home vegetable and fruit gardening. We have found that by combining the complementary activities and products of Espace Maison and Gros Cailloux, we are uniquely positioned to meet this unprecedented interest in DIY projects, which will certainly outlive COVID-19.


Today, headlines are revolving around the pandemic, but climate change could cause economic damages that are far worse than those caused by COVID-19. The pandemic has exposed the environmental damage and social inequalities driven by our current economic system. Now is the best time to reflect on the world we are leaving behind for our children. To us, a resilient recovery means developing sustainable building solutions, as well as getting our vulnerable communities back on their feet.

During the year, we increased our on-the-ground engagement beyond contributing to the national COVID-19 Solidarity Fund. We were active participants in the cleanup effort following the MV Wakashio Oil spill, contributing material, equipment and logistics to the cause. We also pursued our sustainability agenda, with a strong emphasis on energy efficiency. Some of the most notable measures include the upgrade of our fuel monitoring system to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, the implementation of Le Geste Vert d’Espace Maison to encourage recycling and the integration of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our daily actions. At the same time, we continue to explore the development of eco-friendly products.

Preserving the livelihoods of our affected communities has never been more pressing. Our responsibility as citizens of Mauritius extends beyond distributing dividends to our shareholders. Our newly formed Sponsoring Committee was active in supporting our beneficiaries to the tune of over Rs 1.6 million during the year, while gathering volunteers from the Group to help us carry out projects in the areas of Poverty, Education, Sports, Culture and the Environment –


As we look ahead to 2020 and beyond, even in the midst of an uncertain economic climate, we are rather optimistic about what the future holds for our Group. We know we are fortunate to be operating in an industry that is less vulnerable than other sectors and that has already been experiencing growth. Despite the two-month setback during the lockdown period and assuming a second wave of infections doesn’t strike, we are expecting our core business to return to the activity levels we were accustomed to three years ago. Given the current circumstances, this is an extremely positive scenario.

We expect our core business segment to pick up in the first six months of FY2021 due to the resumption of major public infrastructure and property development projects that were underway when the lockdown was imposed. In contrast, several new property development and smart city projects have been delayed or may be cancelled altogether, and the retail segment will be severely affected by a shrinking purchasing power and imported inflation. As for Gros Cailloux, we are rethinking our strategy in a way that will likely bear fruit in the next two years. Bearing the above in mind, we expect a slowdown in revenue in the second semester of FY2021.

I do not know for certain if Mauritius will be hit by a second wave of infections. But what I do know is that resilience is a recurring theme in UBP’s history. Rather than rely on forecasts, we choose to rely on our highly adaptive business model that has served us well in good and bad times. Over the years, the Group has worked hard to maintain a strong balance sheet and healthy levels of cash on hand, thanks to a prudent and forward-thinking approach. We have also accomplished transformative work to build a more resilient UBP through our investments in digital, sustainability and our human capital. The result? Engaged employees, strong brands and loyal customers. These are not only the pillars of our past success, but also the foundation for our future success.


I would like to begin by thanking the management team and the Board of Directors for helping us navigate what we can only describe as an unusual year. I am grateful for their responsiveness, reliability and sound advice in these difficult times.

I also extend my gratitude to our shareholders, customers and partners for their ongoing trust and confidence in our Group.

Last but not least, a heartfelt thank you to our 1,399 team members. I am so proud of the way they have come together in true spirit of solidarity, even in uncharted territory. Thank you for bringing our values and mission to life in a more meaningful way.

Before I end my message, I would like to share some lessons I have drawn from this crisis, both from the perspective of a CEO and in a more personal capacity. When confronting a challenge of this scale, you have two ways out: you can either get trapped in a downward spiral of “what-ifs”, or you can accept that uncertainty is an unavoidable part of life. With this mindset, you can focus on taking action over the aspects that are within your control. Play on your strengths, trust those around you, continue serving and living your purpose, and most importantly, let us not forget that we are stronger together.

Group CEO signature

Stéphane Ulcoq
Group CEO

of change

Every year in our integrated report, we provide a section on the major ‘drivers of change’ that may affect our business. These global macro forces shape socio-cultural and economic trends (and vice-versa) which directly impact our business. 2020 marks the beginning of a new decade, punctuated by an unprecedented health crisis, a resulting global economic downturn, increasing climate emergencies, and political and social fragmentation at the global level. As our world increases in complexity and uncertainty, this section of our report is ever more important.

Our short analysis is based on sources such as the latest IPSOS report, the World Economic Forum World Risk Report, various sources on global industry trends, and the local news and social media platforms – including, of course, the 2020 National Budget. The selection of ‘drivers of change’ below is not meant to be exhaustive; rather, we have singled out those we believe will have a greater impact on our industry and businesses. Predicting the full breadth of impact of the pandemic and the success or failure of both global and local responses is not possible at the time of writing. At this stage, we may only infer certain short and medium term possibilities.



Developed countries are getting older, and so is Mauritius, a worrying trend for a country that has not accumulated the same amount of wealth as its Western counterparts. Governments in Europe and Japan give us a glimpse of our future: attempts to address fertility rates through flexible working hours, advancements in robotics and more retirement homes. As the productive tissue of Mauritius is set to decrease in the coming decade, more than half of the projected global population rise up to 2050 will be concentrated in just nine countries, namely: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the US. In these same countries, we also witness an increase in urbanisation and consumption.


Despite rising global prosperity, the division between the wealthy and poor is widening and so are the inequalities between generations. Across the globe, countries are expecting the next generation to be poorer than they are “Millennials are 10% less likely to sit in the same economic bracket than Baby Boomers were at their age.” (IPSOS). The 2017 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report ‘The World in 2035: Paradox of Progress’ underlines that, for the first time, a worse future seems inevitable. This is a massive shift from the last half-century of post-World War II optimism.

Over the past decade, Mauritius has experienced an average annual per capita growth of 3.6%, with an increase in purchasing power and urbanisation for middle-class families. This was however accompanied by increasing inequality. The World Bank (2017) shows that household income inequality has widened significantly from 0.36 in 2001 to 0.42 in 2015, particularly in the aftermath of the global economic downturn and terms-of-trade shock that hit Mauritius between 2008 and 2015. As it battles with the effects of COVID-19 and of being placed on the EU’s risk blacklist, combined with an expected rise in inflation and import costs and the potential loss of certain financial and investment companies and services – Mauritius may well join the West in its anxiety about the future.


Today, technology and its increased ability to connect and communicate, is leading to unprecedented socio-economic change. The 2020s will be the decade in which Artificial Intelligence (AI), geodata, the Internet of Things (IoT), bioscience and quantum computing will be given the opportunity to reshape our world. Automation will make production more resource and time efficient, but it will also change the labour market and it is unlikely to benefit the disadvantaged. While technology may change work-life patterns, facilitating more flexibility, it will erase jobs from the economy in the medium term. COVID-19 has offered us an unexpected glimpse of how our lives will look in the future, in terms of what technology can and cannot achieve, especially in our work life patterns and the e-commerce space. There is a general feeling that technology can enable efficiency and freedom, but that the ‘human touch’ and spontaneity are not yet replicable by robots and digitalisation. Regardless, both the speed of the evolution of technology and its ubiquity are likely to impact our economy and how we organise our work life.


Over the past few years, the relative stability of our unipolar international system has been replaced by a fragmented, complex and tense multipolar world. Geopolitical tensions are high, from the US-China trade wars and Russia’s rise as a disruptor, to the rise of protectionism and populism in the West. Misinformation, election meddling and cyber-attacks are now mainstream, further adding to the tensions. “We rely almost entirely on our information infrastructure, and we cannot accurately track how it is being sold, who to, or why” (IPSOS).

The looming threat of a post-COVID-19 global recession exacerbates international tensions, underlined by increasing global debt and resource conflicts. Social, economic, environmental and political value systems are shifting and impacts will be felt in this coming decade. In Mauritius, it is easy to feel a sense of disconnect from global geopolitics and global recessions, especially as we were mostly spared from the brunt of the 2008-10 financial crisis. A decade later, this new crisis feels more real and relevant to Mauritius than ever, highlighting the interconnectedness of the world we live in.


As previously stated in our 2019 Integrated Report, climate change is the global challenge that links us all globally and which is having major impacts on our collective social values. This is one of the rare cases in which we can say with absolute certainty that changing values are translating into consequential behavioural changes and actions. The 2020 World Economic Forum World Risk Report highlights that for the first time ever, the top risks facing the world concerns environmental issues, even surpassing terrorism and cyber-attacks. Climate and health concerns have merged, a trend which was apparent well before COVID-19 and has only been reinforced by the pandemic. The health of the planet and that of individuals are intrinsically linked and this link has never been clearer

One major area of concern, particularly for industries like ours that depend on the availability of raw materials, is the threat of resource depletion, be it water, soil fertility or rare earths, provoking new technical and economic challenges, and social tensions. Conflicts over resources are also on the increase, as a direct result of countries and companies prioritising their economic prospects over the sustainable use of resources. Mauritius hasn’t been spared, with an increased number of legal cases and petitions against both public and private sectors.

As the climate emergency and technological evolution occur simultaneously, we see a strong emerging trend in Cleantech (Clean Technology) – technological innovations that aim to reduce green gas emissions and deliver a cleaner, smarter future. While many argue that a profound social and economic transformation is necessary to avoid the worst impacts, Cleantech has emerged as one of the most impactful solutions.

The aforementioned macro forces may have a significant impact on market trends and consumption behaviour in the following ways:

  1. With fewer new young families on the horizon, the new-home construction market will likely decrease in the coming decade.
  2. An increase in local consumption in support of local initiatives, for both climate and health perspectives
  3. There is a strong emerging trend showing that simplicity is increasingly seen as a luxury (63% according to IPSOS survey), particularly in a world that is becoming ever more complex. This is epitomised by the success of Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ and the increased prevalence of books dealing with topics like ‘zero-waste home’. Anecdotal evidence shows COVID-19 has only reinforced this sentiment.
  4. The desire to lead a healthier lifestyle is another trend that has emerged over the last ten years. With millennials ageing and experiencing an increase in their buying power, this trend is only likely to rise. Once more, anecdotal evidence shows COVID-19 has only reinforced this trend.
  5. Discerning consumption is on the rise. According to IPSOS, 78% of consumers globally believe it is possible, and even expected, for a brand to support a good cause. In addition, due to previous experiences of ‘greenwashing’ and other misleading information, many consumers are seeking genuine communication and authenticity from brands.
  6. The growing popularity of social commerce (instashopping), and other forms of e-commerce have grown, creating new avenues to sell and engage with consumers. Despite this, many still prefer the traditional medium of physically seeing or touching an item before purchasing it, meaning that brick-and-mortar shops are not yet history.


Our value



Our role as a leading Mauritian company in these troubled times is to create a trusting and safe environment for all our stakeholders. It is important that our shareholders, employees, clients and all those who rely on us, feel confident to entrust us with their livelihoods, time and dedication. To ensure strategic alignment with this necessity, the core management team met in June 2020 to review the Group’s strategic priorities. We have agreed that our focus as a Group should be geared towards gaining in AGILITY.


Embrace change and together rally around our common objectives

Generate cash flow now and in the future by capitalising on our assets

Invest in key resources to meet existing demand

Empower employees in their roles to act, delegate, collaborate, coordinate

As a pillar of the local business community since 1953, UBP is fortunate to be part of a robust and resilient group. To thrive in an unstable and complex era marked by rapid changes, it is imperative to build on our achievements and further develop our business agility. This implies organisational structures and processes, leadership and culture, innovation, products and services.

Our ‘Strategy 2020’, still serves as our guidance in the long term. However, in order to be better aligned with the current context and our AGILITY goal, we have brought about some changes. We have created a detailed short-term plan and adapted our objectives as part of a long-term continuous strategy.

Our long-term goals are:





Continuously update the necessary digital tools adapted to each company’s and the Group’s needs to streamline processes.

Drymix is testing its Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) whereas those of UBP and Espace Maison are currently being developed. Our employees will be trained in its use. At Gros Cailloux, Navision has been implemented, while Espace Maison is concentrating on its digital sales platforms.

Evolve towards an integrated Group and establish the organisational and legal structures as and when required.

A new Head of Operations was appointed towards the end of 2019. The Group is accompanied by consultants on our UNIVISION project to improve coordination, synergy and collaboration.


Diversification of our products and outputs.

At Gros Cailloux we reviewed our agricultural products to differentiate ourselves from others in the market, while staying true to our smart agricultural practices.

At UBP, we introduced our new bagging plant back in FY2019. Improvements on packaging and processing are underway.

Evolve towards more sustainable and eco-friendly materials and services for the built environment.

We plan to continue developing products and services that are more sustainable, from agriculture and paints to blocks.


Continuously invest in the appropriate resources and review our customer-facing protocols and processes.

Customer-related Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and protocols have been reviewed and improved in collaboration with employees. These will be implemented in our digital tools and training is planned.

Meet customers’ evolving needs and market demand.

At the end of 2019, Espace Maison opened its sixth shop in Beau Vallon, which operated successfully until the lockdown. Espace Maison then shifted as many necessities as possible to a Click & Collect system during the lockdown to continue serving its customers. Gros Cailloux also adapted its model to ensure meal deliveries to local businesses from its ‘Le Tekoma’ restaurant. It also strived to increase its agricultural capacities to meet demand.


Capacity building for our middle management.

SOPs for production have been reviewed and a plan is currently being worked out by the HR in collaboration with Production Managers to implement operational Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Quality Management Systems.

Drymix is certified ISO 9001:2015, which will now be implemented at department level. Our laboratory is in the process of being ISO 17025 certified.

Enhance employee engagement through ethical business practices.

Negotiations with unions have been underway since the end of the lockdown and the announcement of the new laws in the June National Budget.


Embark on a gradual shift towards sustainability.

Continuous community engagement and sponsorship, especially in times of need.

An action plan is being prepared. A list of activities will then be selected and implemented in the coming year.

Following COVID-19, our short-term priorities have been laid out as follows:

  1. Capitalise on the Group’s synergistic capabilities and through the continuous digitalisation of our processes, create a Group Sales structure to streamline inter-company processes and protocols.
  2. Ensure continuous innovation of products and services by reinforcing our R&D team, capitalising on emerging opportunities and naming a new R&D Manager.
  3. Create a unified communication ‘front’ by digitalising all our communication channels and updating all necessary information.
  4. Build the capability of middle managers to utilise digital tools and to become independent, analytical and confident in their roles.
  5. Monitor our externalities closely through frequent PESTLE analysis, engagement with research companies and local thought leaders, frequently reviewing our operational risks to include and monitor new COVID-19 related risks.


It is premature at this stage to draw any society-wide conclusions on how COVID-19 will impact or change what matters are most important to our external stakeholders, the durability of that change and the degree of that change. As such, creating a complete materiality matrix for this year seems incongruent.

In the meantime, we held a workshop with the management team to align our COVID-19 strategy with our most internal material matters over the next 12 months:


Business ethics


Innovation and diversification of our products and materials


Digital innovation in communication and sales


Occupational health, safety and employee wellness at work


Building up employability and competencies for today and tomorrow


Developing intrapreneurship


Modernisation and efficiency of our operations


Inscribing sustainability in our way of doing business

In addition, we carried out an internal survey amongst our employees. The 100 respondents were mostly in managerial roles. The aim of this questionnaire was firstly to reconnect with our employees and have them share their experience of the lockdown, and secondly ask them what they believe the role of the Group ought to be in Mauritius over the next 12 months.

Interestingly :

of those surveyed believe that society-wide changes are necessary for the future well-being of Mauritius.

The top 3 changes deemed necessary for Mauritius are:

  • (1) working conditions become more flexible with the ‘Work from Home’ model;
  • (2) living more simply and prioritising the ‘essentials’ of a good life; and
  • (3) promoting a sustainable economic development that nurtures and protects the environment.

In light of the above, employees believe that our role as a Group should be to:

  1. continue being an employer of choice;
  2. take social actions for communities who live close to where we operate; and
  3. continue to move forward, produce and innovate.

With regard to our material matters, our employees believe that we should concentrate on:

  1. Ethics and good governance (SDG 16);
  2. Occupational Health and Safety (SDG 3);
  3. Human development and training (SDG 4 & 8);
  4. Efficiency and modernisation (SDG 9 & 12); and
  5. Management of our impacts on the environment (SDG 12,13,14,15).

The results show a broad alignment between what our managerial employees think and what the strategy dictates. These findings have emboldened our journey as one team towards a common goal.

Risk management

Given the current context, the management of our external operational environment is crucial to ensure agility and resilience. The future is still uncertain, and we need to plan on facing the unknown. To this end, we need to have the right resources in the right places so that we can respond rapidly and decisively in the event of another crisis. To have the right risk management plan in place, we first needed to recognise and understand these new and changed externalities.

COVID-19 impact



On November 07, 2019, the incumbent Prime Minister won a second mandate to govern Mauritius for a full 5-year term. The government handled the COVID-19 crisis with decisiveness, choosing to keep its people safe from the virus. The June 2020 budget has brought about many changes to our policy and legal environment, the consequences of which, both positive and negative, we are still grappling with. While we, in Mauritius, live in relative peace and stability, the crisis has highlighted pre-existing global geopolitical trends, fracturing social and political stability worldwide. While there have been many acts of solidarity on the international front, many countries are also acting unilaterally to protect their own short-term interests. As a vulnerable small island nation, we must remain vigilant and agile, while seeking all possible opportunities for our island to develop peacefully.


Before the pandemic, Mauritius enjoyed steady growth, especially in the construction sector which has continued to be an important driver of growth over the past three years. We are now expecting a GDP contraction between 13% and 15% locally for 2020. Globally, the situation is as dire. Despite the opening of our borders since the month of October, all tourism activities are still very low. The blacklisting of Mauritius by EU institutions will only make matters worse. While at UBP Group we are not directly affected by this, the entire country is impacted given that the tourism directly and indirectly contributes up to 20% of our GDP. In addition, the threat of such an uncertain future is causing markets to stagnate, while the departure of many expatriates and rising unemployment will affect the local purchasing power. Yet, as a Group, we consider ourselves fortunate. Despite a forecasted contraction of 20% for the calendar year 2020, the construction sector is one of the least affected and will be able to rely on the announced government budgetary measures. Our Group companies will also be able to capitalise on certain emerging market trends such as the renewed importance of ‘localism’, ‘food security and greener thumbs’.


In a crisis of this magnitude, fear, anxiety and unemployment prevail, bringing about the additional threat of social unrest. The pandemic has lifted the veil on existing social inequalities globally and threatens to widen the gap between the rich and poor. However, a bleak outcome is not certain and can be avoided. Mauritians have demonstrated that they are motivated to come together, to cooperate and work hard to build together a better future for our country. There is an opportunity here to reinforce our relationship with our workforce, and between our companies, in joining forces and sticking together. We are as committed as ever to building a better living environment for all Mauritians.


The clearest impact of this crisis has been the accelerated digitalisation of our working practices. Luckily, all systems were in place to swiftly transition to a ‘Work from Home’ model, and to capitalise on digital sales platforms at Espace Maison. Though the tools were in place, our culture and habits had yet to make the same leap. While digital tools will not replace all human interactions, many of these changes have been embraced and are here to stay. It will therefore be imperative to accelerate our own digitalisation journey across all our companies and to bring our products and services closer to our customers.


Many legal and policy changes are currently unfolding, with a total of 12 Bills introduced at the National Assembly between May and July this year. Asides from legislation affecting our tax regime, other amendments impacting the construction industry are as follows:

  • Waived fees related to the Building and Land Use Permit (BLUP) for construction of pharmaceutical manufacturing factories, food processing plants and warehouses.
  • Facilitating purchases of immovable properties by foreign citizens through digital powers of attorney.
  • Extending the Construction of Housing Estate Scheme and Acquisition of Newly Built Dwellings Scheme for another period of two years and raising the eligibility threshold under these schemes from Rs 6 million to Rs 7 million.
  • Allowing for payment of VAT as from the date of receipt instead of the date of invoice for Government contracts in relation to construction works.
  • Public projects with investments of less than Rs 300 million, and where pre-qualification is not required by the Central Procurement Board, will be opened to Mauritian companies only.

Amendments impacting the Agro-Industry are as follows:

  • Introduction of a comprehensive National Agri-Food Development Programme to promote the Farm to Fork concept, to ensure food security and reduce dependence on imports.
  • A centralised digital Land Bank of State and Private Agricultural Land will be set up under Landscope Mauritius Ltd. This platform will help match demand and supply for land that can be used for food production. 20,000 acres of abandoned land will be made available on the platform for immediate use.
  • Small planters having up to 10 acres of agricultural land will be allowed to convert up to 10% of the land for residential or commercial purposes.
  • The Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI) will develop the necessary standards and norms for production, storage, transformation and commercialisation of superfoods.
  • The Agricultural Marketing Board Act will be amended to broaden the role and functions of the Agricultural Marketing Board (AMB).
  • Under the Fruit Protection Scheme, a grant of 50% of the cost of permanent netting structures will be provided to orchard owners.
  • For distressed companies affected directly by the pandemic in the agricultural sector, the Development Bank of Mauritius (DBM) will provide loans at a concessional rate of 0.5% per annum.


COVID-19 has shed light on the symbiotic relationship between nature’s wellbeing and that of humans. A recently published study calculated that the “cost of preventing further pandemics over the next decade by protecting wildlife and forests would equate to just 2% of the estimated financial damage caused by COVID-19” (The Guardian). Together with the climate crisis, the number of arguments, including economic imperatives, in favour of protecting the environment are truly piling up. Increasingly, we must make business decisions that are in line with this need, and that respond to market demands for more eco-friendly products and services.


The Board is ultimately responsible for the setting up and monitoring of the risk governance process, including setting the risk appetite and the adequacy and effectiveness of the internal control systems. It is assisted in its duties by the Risk Monitoring Committee and the Audit Committee, as well as our newly recruited Risk & Compliance Officer.

For more information on our risk management framework, please refer to the Risk Section in the Corporate Governance Report.

The table overleaf only outlines those risks that are high-level risks pertaining to our strategy and to the Board’s objectives.

Risk Category


Strategic Implication




Health and Safety (H&S) risks on our production sites.

Objectives 4 & 5 - Potential operational delays, loss of employee goodwill and reputational damage.

  • More visual cues have been added on our production sites.
  • Communication with Health & Safety officers has been enhanced.
  • Further H&S measures will be implemented.
  • H&S audits are conducted regularly.
  • Training sessions are held on a recurrent basis.
  • Recruitment of a H&S Officer for the Group.

Health & Safety (H&S) - COVID-19

Objectives 4 & 5 - Potential operational delays, loss of employee goodwill and reputational damage.

  • As reported in the Human capital section, strict measures were implemented with the help of a communication plan before and throughout the lockdown.
  • Work from Home Policy, was defined with laptops provided for those in need.
  • We will continue to practise all safety measures in accordance with the most recent and relevant scientific information and local laws.


Inability to recruit and retain talent in an evolving business environment.

Objectives 2 & 4 - Direct impact on our ability to innovate and seize opportunities.

  • A new Group HR Manager has joined the Group since July 2018.
  • An engagement survey was conducted to gauge the engagement level of employees and the results have been communicated. Actions will be taken based on the findings.
  • A job-grading structure was implemented and an alignment of pay with market trends has been effected.
  • Internal development programmes based on Learning Needs Analysis (LNA) are devised on a yearly basis.
  • The implementation of a Performance Management System (PMS) is underway.
  • Human resources and succession planning policies are being outlined.

People and operations

Another full or partial lockdown due to COVID-19

All - Impacted business model, morale of employees, and limited ability to produce.

  • Protocols and processes are now in place to ensure the continuity of as many of our operations as possible in case of another lockdown.
  • Employee Facebook page and other communication means to ensure we stay connected to one another.

Marketing and customer risks

Poor customer relationship management and lack of visibility and communication across departments with regard to the efficient handling of customer complaints.

Objectives 1 & 3 - Impact our ability to have seamless processes and to engage with our customers in a professional manner.

  • A digital notification platform pertaining to a reward system has been elaborated for truck owners.
  • A sales mobile application has been launched.
  • A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is in progress for UBP, Drymix and Espace Maison.
  • A customer care service department will be set up.


Scarcity of raw materials due to extreme weather events, climate change and COVID-19 impact on supply chains.

Objectives 2 and 5 - Affects our ability to have the right level of stock and products on time for our customers, possibly damaging our reputation and brands.

  • Stocks of goods and needed supplies are well maintained.
  • Suppliers reviewed and prices negotiated.
  • Sustainable procurement and stock measures are pursued.
  • Mitigation strategies to adapt to climate change are adopted.

Vulnerability to damage resulting from natural disasters and increasing climate variability affecting crops.

All - Business interruption.

  • Business Continuity Plans (BCP), including comprehensive crisis communication protocols, have been devised for the Group.
  • Crop management and planting season adaptation measures.
  • The Group subscribes to insurance policies to mitigate the financial impact of natural disasters.


Likelihood of cybercrimes

All - Loss of valuable data and business interruption.

  • IT security measures were heightened.
  • Cyber-attack awareness sessions were held in 2019.
  • Continuous security software upgrades.
  • The possible extension of the Group’s insurance cover to include cybercrimes.

Technological and people

IT Resource allocation, with high dependencies on certain IT personnel.

Objectives 1 and 4 - Affects our ability to have continuous efficient procedures and have staff able to problem-shoot IT related issues.

  • A heightened focus was put on the training of our middle management on all IT processes and tools as part of our strategic focus 2018-2020.
  • A Succession Plan Policy was defined.

Technological & marketing and customer risks

Risk of falling behind the technological development curve and risk of obsolescence.

All - Technology today permeates all aspects of business and social life, potentially affecting our ability to innovate, engage with customers, ensure synergy between inter alia departments and companies.

  • Switch to Office 365
  • Launch of the new version of the e-commerce website of Espace Maison.
  • A Group-wide digitalisation and modernisation plan of all systems is being pursued.

Technological & legal, compliance and regulatory risks

Potential loss of data

Objective 5 - Loss of valuable data and business reputation as well as potential legal implications.

  • The Company embarked on a Data Protection Management Program (DPMP), in line with prevailing laws, in view of safeguarding the personal data of its data subjects.
  • Delocalisation of the data servers to a fullfledged registered data centre.
  • The implementation of the DPMP within the Company.
  • The DPMP is being extended to subsidiaries.


Adverse fluctuations in foreign exchange rates and rising local inflation.

All - The business units which are mainly exposed to forex risks are Espace Maison, Drymix and UBP’s engineering division.

  • Forward buying of main currencies
  • Holding excess funds in foreign currencies.
  • Well defined treasury management policies and agreements.

Decreased market demand due to the global pandemic.


  • Reviewed shortterm business strategy.
  • Increased focus on marketing and sales.
  • Efficient financial management and budget reviews.
  • Continued vigilance.
  • Cost-Cutting Plan.

Business environment & market

Missed opportunities locally and abroad linked to an inadequate evaluation of investment opportunities.

Objectives 1, 4 and 5 - Has affected our ability to expand business activities, to make the appropriate analysis and thus to build our brand.

  • A methodology has been devised for substantial investment opportunities.
  • The Group Business Development Manager assesses opportunities and monitors our international activities.
  • Evaluation of the impact of COVID-19 and identifying business opportunities, using the Group’s commercial strength.
  • Evaluating the means to increase the Group’s resilience further to COVID-19.
  • PESTLE Analysis on a regular basis.

Business environment & market

Changing consumer trends with the global focus on waste management, climate change and plastic pollution. Our customers are becoming more political in their purchasing choices.

Objectives 3 and 5 – If we are to continue to build our reputation and engage with our customers, we must follow these trends and respond to market demand.

  • Establishment of a new irrigation system at Gros Cailloux resulting in increased efficiency of the following resources: Labour, water and electricity
  • Le ‘Geste Vert’ campaign was launched by Espace Maison to encourage better waste management practices and to promote recycling.
  • Espace Maison shops are favouring ecofriendly products.
  • Promotion of e-ticketing at Espace Maison shops to reduce paper consumption and waste.
  • La Savonnerie Créole has launched a new range of products which uses AB organic farming certified raw materials. The products are also ‘Made in Moris’ certified.
  • Ongoing R&D and the introduction of innovative products and services that take environmental sustainability as a key criterion.
  • Development of green spaces (carbon offsetting) as part of climate change adaptation strategy.

Legal, compliance and regulatory risks and country risks.

Non-compliance with laws and regulations.

Operational difficulties in our overseas operations.

Objective 5 - Affects the ability of our overseas entities to be financially independent.

  • Corrective actions taken with respect to compliance audits being conducted to ensure adherence to applicable laws and regulations.
  • Consistent impact analysis of new laws and regulations on the operations of the Group.
  • Comprehensive compliance audits are conducted within the Group.
  • Strategic plans are being devised to address the operational problems being encountered.
  • We are considering to exit our business in Sri Lanka and we are re-assessing our operations in Madagascar.