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Home African CEOs Interviews Visionaries Meet Portia Derby, the Brain Behind Transnet’s $1.5 Billion Credit Facility
Visionaries - July 19, 2022

Meet Portia Derby, the Brain Behind Transnet’s $1.5 Billion Credit Facility

When a list of some of the powerful women in South Africa is drawn up, one name that will feature prominently is that of Portia Derby, the resourceful and dynamic woman presently leading the charge to transform Transnet, South Africa’s freight, ports and logistics company.

Derby is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Transnet SOC Ltd, and she is doing an excellent job of spearheading the charge to make Transnet profitable once again.

Transnet, South Africa’s state-owned freight and logistics company, which is the country’s custodian of its rails, ports, and pipelines with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently signed a $1.5 billion five-year senior unsecured term loan facility with a group of international lenders led by Deutsche Bank AG.

The transaction, which is a major deal for the company and its highest in the last seven years, is a drive to push its long term growth in a bid to revitalise its operations.

According to reports, the credit facility will be used to fund the company’s capital expansion programme as well as refinance its existing debt.

This follows challenges the company has faced in the recent past where its operations have been disrupted due to large scale theft of copper cables, insufficient maintenance, and a lack of locomotives that has seen its freight rail network crippled.

This has resulted in a 14% decrease in the volume of goods hauled in the last year, negatively impacting revenue.

With the loan, the company is looking to bounce back, and Portia Derby is leading this charge.

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Transnet SOC Ltd. History
Established on April 1st, 1990 as a limited company, Transnet SOC Ltd was born out of a restructuring of the South African Railways and Harbours in a bid to drive up efficiency.

It oversees the country’s rail transport, port management, logistics, and pipeline management. It also has subsidiaries, namely Transnet Freight Rail, Transnet National Ports Authority, Transnet Port Terminals, Transnet Engineering, and Transnet Pipelines.

To understand the importance of the company to the economy of South Africa, it is important to note that Transnet Port Terminals has played a huge part in supporting the South African government in its bid to develop an export-led growth strategy.

Most of South Africa’s import and export commodities are handled through the country’s six largest ports: Richards Bay, Durban, Saldanha, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and East London. And these are overseen by the company.

Portia Derby-The woman leading the charge at Transnet SOC Ltd

Portia Derby is the woman leading the charge of Transnet and is looking to turn around the fortunes of the company, whose majority stake is owned by South Africa’s Department of Public Enterprises.

She is described as a very dynamic and independent leader who has vast experience in both the private and public sectors.

Portia was appointed in February 2020 as Transnet’s Group Chief Executive Officer after what was described as a rigorous process.

Before her appointment, she was the Director General of the Department of Public Works and Chief Operating Officer of South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry.

She is a successful entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of about $5 million and is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ubu Investments Holdings Pty Limited.

Her work experience

Over the years, she has held various top positions in the public sector. In 2002, she was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Trade and Industry. Between 2004 and 2005, she oversaw the corporate strategy and structure of the investment portfolio, and between 2005 and 2009, she was the Director-General of Public Enterprises of South Africa.

Her career in government started when she worked as a financial researcher at the National Institute for Economic Policy (NIEP). And between 1997 and 2001, she was part of the team that set up the National Investment and Trade Promotion Agency.

Portia holds a BSc Honours in Economics from the University of Natal Pietermaritzburg. She also attended the University of Witwatersrand for her MBA.

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