UK lends £130m for Ghana projects done by “UK firms” – but are they really UK firms?

The UK will provide more than £130m in loans and guarantees for projects in Ghana, including the modernisation of a market, construction of a new hospital, and the expansion of an airport – with work to be carried out by four "British companies".

However, research by GCR shows that while the four companies are UK registered, they were all incorporated only in the last three years and appear to be inactive UK subsidiaries of overseas firms, raising the question of how much benefit will accrue to the UK construction industry.

In a statement yesterday UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the projects "demonstrate how British expertise across a number of sectors is improving vital infrastructure all over the world".

UK Export Finance (UKEF), the agency disbursing the loans, told GCR that there is a trend for overseas companies setting up UK subsidiaries "so that they can readily access UK expertise and supply chain for a range of projects worldwide".

A spokesperson said that 50-53% of goods and services for each of the three projects will come from the UK, with a combined value of more than £75m.

The projects and the companies

UKEF will provide £70.3m in a direct loan and bank guarantee to Ghana’s Ministry of Finance to develop and modernise Kumasi Central Market, a trading centre in the Ashanti region currently visited by up to 800,000 people daily.

This work is to be carried out by Contracta Construction UK Ltd.

Incorporated in September 2016, Contracta Construction UK is controlled by three Brazilian shareholders, according to documents filed at Companies House. Of five listed officers, one is a UK company acting as secretary, and three are resident in Brazil.

It has no web presence of its own, but on Linkedin it directs visitors to the website of Contracta Engenharia, headquartered in Brazil, which has a subsidiary in Ghana. 

Contracta Construction UK’s latest financial statement for the period ending 31 December 2017 lists no turnover.

In the second project, UKEF will guarantee a £43.8m loan to the Ministry of Finance for the expansion of Tamale Airport in the northern region of Ghana. A new international terminal will be built, along with access roads and ancillary facilities.

Work is to be carried out by QG Construction UK, which was incorporated as Queiroz Galvao Constructions UK Ltd in June 2016, and which changed its name in November 2017.

Accounts for a dormant company submitted to Companies House in May 2018 state that QG Construction UK did not trade in the period ending 30 June 2017.

Its six officers include a secretarial company in Leeds, and five officers listed as of Brazilian nationality, resident in Spain.

Finally, UKEF will issue a guaranteed loan of £17.6m for the new, 120-bed Bekwai hospital, which will have an emergency department, a maternity ward and an operating theatre.

UKEF named the contractors as a partnership between Ellipse UK and the Eurofinsa group. 

Eurofinsa is a Madrid-headquartered infrastructure company whose founder and president is Mauricio Toledano.

GCR has been advised that Toledano is a British citizen and was born in the UK (see correction below).

Eurofinsa (UK) Ltd was incorporated in April 2016. Its controlling shareholder is also Mauricio Toledano, and it had no revenue in the year ending 31 December 2017. 

Toledano is also the controlling shareholder of Ellipse Projects (UK) Ltd, which was incorporated in February 2017, and showed income of just £2 in the year to December 2017. 

"UKEF has seen an increasing trend for overseas companies setting up UK subsidiaries, so that they can readily access UK expertise and supply chain for a range of projects worldwide," a UKEF spokesperson said. "This is improving UK business’ access to overseas markets and export opportunities."

According to UKEF, UK content in the Ghanaian projects is valued at more than £75m, broken down as follows:

  • 50% of the goods and services for Kumasi Central Market, including construction materials, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), kitchens, construction vehicles, design and installation services;
  • 53% of goods and services for Tamale Airport, including structural steel, cladding, electrical equipment and construction vehicles;
  • 53% of goods and services for Bekwai hospital, including medical equipment and vehicles, as well as design, engineering, consulting and training services.

The spokesperson said all the projects also include accounting, legal, insurance, and logistics services from the UK.

Image: Prince Charles visits Kumasi Central Market, Ghana (UKEF)

  • Updated 1 March 2019 to include UKEF response
  • Corrections: 2 March 2019 – An earlier version of this article stated that the four companies were "owned or directed by non-British people". While relevant documents filed with Companies House state that Mauricio Toledano is a Spanish national, resident in Spain, GCR has since been advised that Mauricio Toledano is a British citizen, was born in the UK, and has dual citizenship. We apologise to Mr Toledano for the error. This version also corrects details pertaining to the officers listed for Contracta Construction UK and QG Construction UK.
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  1. What is the point in this funding, already Ghana has broken its agreement in allowing UK Companies to bid for these works. Also, Ghana has a reputation for being corrupt so, how much money will be allocated to these projects and the best joke of all is the word loan !!!!!

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