Vice came to the consortium with a strong background in gases, having worked in the industry since 1975. ‘I started my career at Afrox in a financial role, and as I moved up to head the company’s financial department, I started the Afrox Health Care hospital group,’ says Vice. ‘In 1986 I was asked to move to the US as the Vice President, Finance, for BOC. A year later, I was made President of the Industrial Gases division of BOC in the US and became involved in running the US bulk gases products as well as the BOC companies in South America and Canada. I was offered the role of Regional Director, Africa for BOC in 1992, which included BOC companies in Africa and being the Managing Director of Afrox. I returned to SA.’ In 1998, Vice was asked to move to London to become CEO of the Industrial and Special Products, a line of business of BOC. He worked as one of three Group CEOs for four years until he resigned in 2002 . Via the South African private equity group Ethos, Vice bought a share in Waco International, where he currently serves as the company’s chairman.
‘In my 26 years in the gases business, I have worked in almost every geography in the world and in all types of gases,’ says Vice, ‘and this has given me the ability to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the industry in SA and assist in focusing Puregas on areas that will facilitate its further growth.’ Since 2006, Puregas has maintained a strong focus on its customers and has prided itself on becoming less commoditised and a speciality gaseous chemicals company.
In working to achieve this goal, Puregas has invested in additional storage facilities on its own and its customers’ premises, as well as in increased logistics capacity. The company has also started a greenfield special gases business and has erected a plant at its facility in Alrode. Puregas has also added LPG, fire suppressants and ammonia to its customer product offering.
‘Our propellants business has grown strongly in recent years, and when it comes to expanding the business further,’ says Vice, ‘we are not averse to making acquisitions, if necessary.
‘One of the things that makes the Puregas business so successful, is its people,’ says Vice. ‘In this small and specialised industry, the vast knowledge and experience of the company’s management and employees is its strength. Puregas has an excellent safety ethic, which is essential and is fortunate to have some financial muscle. It is a combination of these factors that gives it a good growth agenda for the coming years.’
When asked about his vision for the company, Vice notes that Puregas continually strives to maintain its reputation as a value-adding and customer-focused speciality gases company. Ultimately aiming to list the company on the JSE, Vice predicts that Puregas will double in size over the next three years.
» show less