Oud, Assets and the French Connection

Sought after since the dawn of time; revered in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures; Oud has fast become the ingredient of choice in the world's exclusive fragrances.

Mystical, enigmatic, and elemental, Oud is extracted from the highly valued and fast disappearing Agarwood tree that is native to Southeast Asia and its environs. It has an extraordinary history and complexity, and is now to be found in the boutiques and luxury branded stores whose names are redolent of Parisian Haute Couture and French finery.

Disciples of Oud are legion -- particularly among the coterie of the world's Master Perfumers who value its extraordinary qualities and the depth it lends to a fragrance. To that group of cognoscenti, we can now add, somewhat unexpectedly, the Private Banker, Wealth Manager and Family Office.

APC CEO Barry Rawlinson with Olivier Breda, Independent Consultant inspecting Agarwood Trees


The new brand of followers is not necessarily drawn to Oud for its almost mythical health-giving, wellbeing or even aphrodisiacal qualities sometimes portrayed in television campaigns or in glossy periodicals alongside the latest perfume du jour. Nor perhaps for its sublime aroma and richness of olfactory texture. What's stimulating interest are hard cash, and the nourishing of sustainable and environmental consciences.

Since 2000, the trees from which Oud is obtained has been placed on the CITES endangered species list, and their harvesting in the wild has been made illegal. Demand is insatiable, and growing, and has contributed to the trees in the wild being harvested to near extinction due to their value in Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures, as well as a myriad of other uses in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and fragrance industries and beyond.

Stocks are in short supply, while demand is increasing, and the fact that only 7 in every 100 trees produce Oud, and that even those 7 can only produce a tiny amount of the magical oil, has led to an unprecedented denudation. It has also created a unique investment and sustainable business opportunity.

The solution would appear to be an easy one to arrive at; plant more trees, wait for a few years, and get rich.

In reality, planting the trees and growing them is relatively easy. The secret lies in possessing the proprietary technology, expertise, experience and production systems through to end product distribution to turn a simple tree from a near worthless softwood, into an oil that is valued at up to US$50,000 per kilogramme.

Sebastien Gouspillou, Development Manager Europe - getting close with Aquilaria tree saplings


In this instance, it is a closely kept secret (of considerable value) and Asia Plantation Capital (APC) is one of the very few companies who, over the last 10 years, have achieved the seemingly improbable. Many companies claim to have made the latest and greatest scientific breakthroughs, but only APC and a handful of smaller growers and companies -- many of whom work exclusively with the APC Group -- have consistently produced results that validate their claims.

Backed up by all the relevant certification and approvals, as well as the all-important distribution network, Asia Plantation Capital has a proprietary 'Soil to Oil to You' business model that encompasses vertical integration in the entire supply chain, from seed propagation, all the way through to enlightened consumers buying retail products.

The Asia Plantation Capital Group has recently been engaging with European and Middle Eastern based investment managers, funds, family offices and private bankers to tell its unique story.

Sebastien Gouspillou, Development Manager Europe and Mrs Jinda Tonkhambai – Director of APC Malaysia with investors: Vincent De Meaux (Athos Patrimoine), Alexandre de Mahieu (Small Trees) and Patrick Philppeau (Philimmo)


Eyebrows were raised, curiosities piqued, and interest registered, with several groups taking the opportunity to visit the companies' plantations, factories and retail outlets in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, to see for themselves what all the buzz was about.

It was a buzz created by the company and its projects being bestowed with the "Best Forestry Asset Management Award 2014" by CFI Magazine, and being shortlisted as a finalist in the "World Sustainable Business Awards", held in Paris by Organic Monitor. And perhaps it had something to do with more awards being garnered by perfumes produced by Fragrance Du Bois -- one of APC's associated companies, to which it supplies the exceptional, 100% guaranteed natural, organic Oud oil.
"Having seen our assets under management grow to US$600 million at the end of 2013," said Gary Crates - CEO Europe, "from investors in the know and our own shareholders in the Group's plantation projects in their countries, we found increasing interest from institutional investors, pension funds and family offices from further afield."

He continued, "They were looking for higher yielding projects that were, importantly, sustainable, and during October and early November we were proud to host several groups of HNWI Asset Managers and Advisors from France, Germany and Switzerland. This is nothing new when you consider that annually, more than 3,000 Asian-based plantation owners and investors visit our plantations, shops and factories on a monthly basis. The big difference is that 95% of our normal visitors are Asian, who understand first-hand the opportunities in the plantation sector. Seeing European Asset Managers and some from the Middle East was a new experience for us, and clearly a result of the hard work our teams across Asia have contributed to the company's and plantations' underlying success and growth."

Mister Vincent de Meaux, from Athos Patrimoine said, "I have to say I have been looking at various opportunities in the plantation sector, and carrying out due diligence on behalf of clients for a number of years on companies and projects. Prior to my visit, I was open minded, but perhaps a little skeptical. The huge scale of operations and expert management and systems Asia Plantation Capital have developed and put in place, amount to one of the most impressive overall plantation business models I have seen."

He went on, "Add to that their back-end processing and distribution through their own company's retail outlets in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, makes for a genuine, vertically integrated and unique sustainable business opportunity. It also looks like one of the best strategic hedge strategies I have seen in recent years. It's no surprise this company has already achieved so much," he concluded, "and the added bonus for today's world is that it is 100% sustainable; the company even has ISO status for its carbon footprint."

Perfume Industry Expert Simon French said, "Having spent more years than I care to mention at director level in some of the world's largest fragrance and flavourings companies, I can honestly say that no ingredient has captured the market or indeed had such demand as pure Oud. While many essential oils have been successfully created in synthetic form, and many companies have created synthetic Oud-style ingredients, the animalic nature of pure and natural Oud in perfume is extraordinary and unmistakable. Any perfumer or Nose will confirm; pure Oud is unique and unmatchable in its ability to sustain, strengthen and prolong the fine fragrance experience."

The Group has opened, and is opening more luxury flagship boutiques in some of the world's most iconic locations, to showcase its specialist perfume brand, Fragrance Du Bois. Plans are afoot to partner many of the world's leading fragrance houses to establish a global chain of niche retail outlets offering the most exclusive selection of fine fragrances and bespoke creations for a discerning clientele. This will comprise a selection from the ultimate collection of 100% natural Oud fragrances created by an elite group of international perfumers.

With the fragrance industry being only one of the multiple commercial applications for Oud and the Agarwood tree, the business case is solid, sustainable, and nigh on irresistible.

Pure Oud. Pure luxury. Born in nature and crafted in France, a truly French Connection for the current age.




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