Patching up after a crisis

Mark Halabe says his sports clothing manufacturing business, Mark One Apparel, went from turning over “$FJ1 million a month to nothing” during Fiji’s strict COVID-19 lockdown.

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

“We didn’t start as sports clothing… we’ve morphed into this over the last 35 years,” the Managing Director explains. “We’ve found our niche for the Australian market and we’re working it as hard as we can.”

“Our team has worked closely with around 2,000 customers across the region who needed some form of relief.” – Rabih Yazbek

Yet when strict COVID-19 measures were introduced in Fiji in early 2021, Halabe’s business, like many others, came to a complete halt.

“We were strictly shut down for two months… We lost a lot of income during those months.”

Navigating hard times

Halabe says when a business is facing “disaster” they need the support of financiers.

“[ANZ] had enough confidence in us [from] the many years we have been banking with them. They knew we would be able to get through this,” he recalls. “It wasn’t even a request, they came to us and said: ‘how can we help?’

“With all of the incentives they gave us to keep us going through this difficulty, we slid through that period of time,” Halabe says.

ANZ Fiji Country Head Rabih Yazbek says ANZ supported customers with measures including payment deferrals, interest only loans and loan term extensions, as well as having critical conversations to ensure they could navigate through the pandemic and become successful in the new world.

“Over the past two years our team has worked closely with around 2,000 customers across the region who needed some form of relief,” says Yazbek. “As infections spread across the world, the Pacific was one of the hardest hit regions economically.”

Yazbek says closed borders devastated tourism economy markets like Fiji, Cook Islands and Samoa. Even Pacific countries with smaller tourism industries were badly hurt by global supply chain disruptions.

“Although the pandemic is far from over, it’s really pleasing most customers are now back to making normal repayments,” he says. “We’re committed to helping our Pacific customers during these challenging times and this is something we’re all very proud of.”

New material

Looking ahead, Halabe has big plans for his business.

“We have plans to double the production we have in Fiji - literally double it. We have 400 staff now and we’re looking at [growing to] 800. We’ve got massive capital investment on the program,” he says. “We’ve discussed this with the bank and they’re on board.”

Victoria Kanevsky is Pacific Communications Manager at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

12 Apr 2022

Fiji economy: changing gears

Kishti Sen | Pacific Economist, ANZ

The Fijian economy looks set to remain in good shape in 2022 but upstream price pressures such as higher import and unit labour costs are a risk.

08 Mar 2022

Ideas that are good for business and the community

Victoria Kanevsky | Manager, Pacific Communications

Businesswomen in Fiji paving the way towards equality.