On April 21st 1995 Wills (PNG) Ltd opened a new cigarette factory and office complex in Madang at a cost of K6.8 million. It was evidence of long term commitment by British-American Tobacco Company, one of the largest tobacco marketers and manufacturers in the world, to investment in Papua New Guinea.
Wills ties with PNG began in the 1960’s with Players Gold Leaf cigarettes. In 1971 Wills became WD & HO Wills (PNG) Ltd and began locally manufacturing five different brands. In 1972 Wills established depots in Port Moresby, Rabaul, Lae and Goroka. A year later they began manufacturing Benson and Hedges in Madang. Twenty years later they had been taken over by BAT and changed their name to Wills (PNG) Ltd. The whole operation was moved to Madang and celebrated by the opening of the new cigarette factory.
In 1994 Wills (PNG) Ltd. contributed over K90 million in excise duties to the PNG tax coffers – 7% into PNG’s revenue budget. Recently the Company has begun substituting imported material with local products underlining its support in promoting its investment in the country.
The re-location to Madang marked the start of a major reinvestment drive totalling over K10 million. “We are one of the companies who are taking a leading role in promoting investment in line with the country’s aspirations,” said General Manager, Mak Mokaddem. “Our reinvestment in Papua New Guinea in paid up capital amounts to K5 million but by the time we finish, it will be about K18 million.”
Wills (PNG) Ltd, with over 270 workers, is one of the largest private employers in Madang Province. Business and employment opportunities extend to real estate, shipping, hotel conference facilities and accommodation and the employment of local residents through the engagement of security companies and other tradesmen including catering services. The whole of Madang’s small economy has benefited from the Wills relocation.
Within the new plant Wills produces leading international cigarette brands Benson & Hedges and Kool, as well as a range of tobacco, the most notable of which is the range within the Spear Brand.
The new factory is a state-of-the-art fully airconditioned building including the latest technology in network fibre-optic cabling which enables the Company to link all its productions departments and depots. It incorporates an office complex which includes a clinic, a consultation room and an Intensive Care Unit for its employees. T he staff canteen has a 60-seat capacity. T he designers included a water reservoir with its own treatment plant in preparation for Madang’s notorious dry spells, and at a cost of K220,000, an effluent treatment plant which takes an ‘environmentally friendly’ approach to dealing with wastes from the factory.
Wills have always been a safety conscious company. The Madang factory has been designed to the highest international standards and includes many safety features. In addition they conduct frequent checks and run courses to maintain a high safety record.
Since the move to Madang, a programme of nationalisation has begun with a huge recruitment drive to employ highly qualified Papua New Guineans. “To be effective, the Company is going to get the best talent, who we will then train and develop”, stressed Televika Faite, the Personnel & Corporate affairs manager. Over the last three years the drive has already resulted in the employment of 11 qualified nationals at management level.
The benefits of Wills (PNG) relocation to Madang include various sponsorships in social, community and sporting activities, especially a K10,000 donation to assist the Madang Rugby Football League Association. Probably one of the best known promotions is the Golden Music Club which reached a record 15,000 members last year. “The objective is to promote Papua New Guinea music as well as form a home grown music club”, said brand Executive Gabriel Laka. In addition to the fan club Wills also sponsors local talent on TV and offers prizes through a weekly radio programme.
Wills (PNG) is a major international company which has brought investment to Papua New Guinea and important benefits to Madang.