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Jamaican upstart lubricant producer eyeing regional push

Published:Friday | October 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Aerial view of LSC Jamaica plant in Clarendon.

A new lubricants business, Lubricating Specialties Company Jamaica (LSC), having finalised the set-up of its nascent local operations, is already looking to take on the regional market.

LSC Jamaica Managing Director Neil Crooks says the company has outfitted a manufacturing plant in Clarendon, representing its re-entry into the business of consumer-grade lubricants for the first time in decades.

LSC has been largely quiet about its manufacturing project, which it rolled out ahead of another aspirant, Paramount Trading Jamaica Limited. Paramount's joint-venture project with Allegheny Petroleum for a lubricant plant - construction of which is under way and is to be finalised by year end - was up to now being touted as the first to get into production of lubricants. Up to this point, the market comprised players who would import and distribute foreign brands.

"Years ago, lubricants were manufactured in Jamaica. That business was moved from Jamaica to Trinidad some years ago, and since then, most oils were imported. With local manufacturing here again, we hope to contribute to positive growth," said Crooks in a Financial Gleaner interview.

The plant was commissioned about a year ago. Crooks says its optimal output is five million gallons per year.

LSC first announced its presence a week ago via a press release. Its statement said its manufacturing facilities include modern laboratories capable of performing virtually all testing needed. The company also says its facility is ISO 9001-2008-certified.

LSC Jamaica is an affiliate of American company Lubricating Specialties Company, a contract blender and packager of lubricants and greasers in the western United States.

The American operation currently manufactures and distributes to clients in the Caribbean and Latin America.

"Where it is logistically more efficient or our location makes it possible, LSC Jamaica will take on those arrangements rather than LSC America," said Crooks.

Companies Office documents lists California-based businessmen Sydney Thwaites, Mark Sampson and Thomas Webster as directors, along with Neil Crooks, who is a Jamaican. The primary shareholder is Paramount Holdings Limited with 90 per cent of the shares, which, in turn, is 80 per cent owned by LSC America.

Aim to strengthen region

Thwaites, a Jamaican resident in California, is president and CEO of Lubricating Specialties Company. He has a vision to leverage his company's US strength to spread that influence regionally.

"LSC invested in Jamaica in order to secure a regional presence to better serve our customers in the Caribbean and Central America," Thwaites said.

"With our roots in Jamaica, we believed that we could build an industry-leading lubricant manufacturing facility consistent with all of our North American facilities. Leveraging our existing supply chain, technical expertise and global network of customers sets LSC Jamaica apart from other regional players and those that seek to enter the market," he said.

Crooks declined to disclose the size of the investments made by LSC in the Jamaican operations, whose plant sits just outside the Clarendon capital of May Pen. The location formerly housed a Juici Beef manufacturing facility.

Crooks is also not willing to go on record about LSC's client base but maintains that it is a strong player.

"We're an independent contract manufacturer of lubricants. We do the full range, including industrial applications, engines and speciality fluids. We make for independent brands and since we're not a marketing company, typically, we could manufacture for any of the large companies, but we are not at liberty to disclose that," he said.

Still, he told the Financial Gleaner that LSC Jamaica manufactures Top 1 motor vehicle lubricants. This brand is distributed locally by the John Levy-led Island Lubes.

LSC Jamaica is taking on big players in the consumer lubricants market, but Crooks said his company was equal to the challenge.

"It is definitely a part of the overall business plan to be a Jamaican company exporting to the region. Just because we don't have oil, it doesn't mean that we can't be an effective and efficient manufacturer. To my mind, that's a big misconception," Crooks said.