A man in news: Why does Ayman Bergenjiki retract Indomie factory closure
Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa
Syrian businessman Ayman Bergenjiki, owner of Indomie Syria, retreated about an hour after announcing the closure of his factory in Syria through a post on his personal Facebook page on 14 September, which received a wild response on local social media.
“Goodbye to my labor of 25 years. Today was the last day. Goodbye, Indomie Syria.” But an hour later, he wrote in another post: “Trade Minister Amr Salem contacted me as soon as he heard that the factory had closed and asked for us to continue with production, promising to overcome all relevant obstacles.”
This is not the first time Bergenjiki announced that he “cannot continue to work inside Syria.” In 2016, the same issue was raised, amid talks about multiple goals, including pressure on the government to facilitate production or to ensure that prices are raised with the aim of “survival.”
The government’s move, represented by Trade Minister Salem, to prevent the factory’s closure, raises questions about the reason for its support and adherence to Bergenjiki amid the repeated closure of many companies and the ongoing capital flight.
Not the first time
At the end of 2016, Bergenjiki’s announcement that the Indomie factory in Syria had been suspended due to a government decision also sparked controversy, but the factory did not stop at that time.
The announcement was followed by an increase in the prices of the substance in Syria.
At the time, Bergenjiki said that the government’s decision to “rationalize imports” harmed the import of raw materials for the factory, explaining that the company was applying for 20 import licenses, of which only six were approved, which led to a decrease in the factory’s stock of raw materials from six months to ten days.
At the time, the general director of the factory announced that the factory would stop working “for a while” until the main company was persuaded that the factory would import its raw materials from Indonesia, adding that “all we asked for was a plea, even for one month, to obtain an import permit pending approval to change the country of import.”
Who owns Indomie in Syria?
The Indomie Syria factory is owned by 20 percent of the Bergenjiki company and 80 percent by an Indonesian company.
The Indonesian company is the owner of the Indofood brand, which is a joint stock company listed on the Indonesian Stock Exchange, with 75 percent owned by the Indonesian state.
The company owns investments and laboratories in about 30 countries around the world to produce noodles and owns two plants in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia to produce spices.
Assistant Minister of Economy, Bassam Haidar, responded to Bergenjiki’s statements by saying that the company imports the raw material and manufactures it in Syria.
Haider said that the goal of the ministry’s decision is to “encourage imports from friendly countries,” adding that the request submitted by Bergenjiki was asking for permission to import from all countries.
Trade Minister pledges to ensure continuity
After Bergenjiki announced, for the second time, on 13 September, that the factory was unable to work in Syria, the Minister of Internal Trade, Amr Salem, promised him to “overcome all relevant obstacles.” assuring that a meeting would be held between the two to discuss solutions and resume production in “shortest time.”
Salem, in a telephone call with the local radio Ninar FM, explained that Bergenjiki visited him at the ministry two months ago and informed him of the shortage of raw materials, explaining that the factory produces at a quarter of its production capacity, but during the new contact with him, “the continuity of the work of the factory was confirmed and that the problems he faces will be dealt with by the Economic Committee, and not only by the Internal Trade Ministry.”
Salem denied that the closure announcement was aimed at raising prices, stressing that the ministry “will not accept raising the price of the material.”
Who is Ayman Bergenjiki?
The Syrian businessman was born in 1965. He holds a BA in English language and literature from Damascus University, according to his biography that appears on the “Who Are They” website, which is specialized in publishing biographies of businessmen and well-known personalities.
He served as the head of the Syrian-Indonesian Businessmen Council, and the owner and chairman of the board of directors, and the CEO of Sawab Indomie Company since April 2006.
He has also been the CEO of Adkonork Food Industries and Trade Ltd. in Turkey since 2009 and the Arab Distribution Company in Syria since 2007.
He is a founding partner in several companies operating in Syria, including Darko Bergenjiki Water Treatment, The Arab Distribution Company, and Taysir Oil Services Company. He served as the general manager of MABC company for importing and distributing products between 1997 and 2007.
Why does the regime stick to Indomie Syria?
Questions were raised about the regime’s government’s keenness not to close the factory over the past years, at a time when many factories and other industrial facilities were closed, without taking any such position, amid the lack of information related to Bergenjiki and how close he is to the decision-making circles in Syria.
Amid the many circulating stories, including adherence to Bergenjiki for reasons that may be related to the size of his investments or his relations, perhaps, or what the Indomie meal made by the factory means for most Syrian families due to its low price.
Khaled Turkawi, researcher and lecturer, specializing in economic affairs, believes that what happened (Minister Amr Salem’s call) is a good “media propaganda” for the government, that it is the party that meets the people and welcomes the investing merchants.
He added to Enab Baladi, “In principle, we do not know the side that contacted Bergenjiki, the minister or an intelligence branch, ordering him what to do exactly.”
Turkawi considered that the Syrian regime has no problem with businessmen closing their factories and companies, but its priority is to make traders pay sums of money for the benefit of the security branches.
The economist believes that the practical response to the businessman, the adherence to his requests, and the government’s commitment to its promises are costly to it, pointing out that the most important gain for the government is that its interest in him is “propaganda” only.
The director of the Syrian program at the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks, Dr. Karam Shaar, told Enab Baladi that the story of the regime’s government convincing the businessman to stay appears to be related to “Indomie’s symbolism.”
“Closing the factory, which produces a substance that is consumed by a very large segment of Syrians, will have a clear damage to the reputation of investment in Syria, and the suitability of the general climate for work and economic activity,” he adds.
Activities for “reconstructing Syria”
As a member of the Board of Directors, Bergenjiki attended the first founding meeting of the Syrian Businessmen Around the World Gathering, which was held in the Romanian capital Bucharest in October 2019.
At the time, 18 Syrian businessmen from several European and Western countries participated in it, according to a statement published by the official website of the Syrian Embassy in Bucharest.
The goal of the Gathering, according to the statement issued after the meeting, was to establish a network of acquaintances between businessmen, specialists, and consultants, for several goals, including “supporting the Syrian economy in the process of reconstruction and construction in Syria as a bridge of communication and affiliation, whether by providing opinion and advice or by actively participating in the process of Syrian economic and social construction.”
The Indomie factory was established in Syria under the name of Sawab Indomie company, known as Salem and Razan Bergenjiki Company, in 2006. It works in the field of food industries and is based in the Adra industrial city in Damascus countryside.
With the aim of producing instant noodles under the Indomie brand, The company was incorporated in 2006 under the provisions of Investment Law No. 10 of 1991 and its amendments.
Indomie Syria expanded in 2007 to include the production of natural flavored potato chips under the Chipster brand.
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