Kenya puts 35 state companies up for sale
Chance to offload potentially lucrative companies whose growth has been limited by red tape, says president
Nairobi — Kenya’s President William Ruto said on Thursday the government is poised to privatise 35 state companies after enacting a law in October to guide the process.
Kenya last privatised a state-owned company in 2008 with an initial public offering (IPO) for 25% of the shares in telecommunications firm Safaricom.
“We have identified the first 35 companies that we are going to offer to the private sector. We have another close to 100 we are working with financial advisers on what to do,” Ruto said in remarks at the opening ceremony of the African Stock Exchanges Association’s annual meeting in Nairobi.
Finance minister Njuguna Ndung’u told Reuters that the names of the firms to be sold will be announced at a later date.
The East African country’s public finances have been under pressure from the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic and frequent climate change-induced droughts and there is uncertainty over its ability to access funding from financial markets before a $2bn eurobond matures in June.
While Ruto said Kenya would now be able to offload potentially “lucrative” companies where growth has been limited by bureaucracy, Ndung’u denied the listing drive is intended to shore up government finances. “One of [the aims] is to inspire market activity. Cash is a secondary issue,” he said.
Ruto said Kenya revised its privatisation law to remove “unnecessary bureaucracies” and the government’s new drive would boost Africa’s pipeline of company flotation.
Bourses on the continent have underperformed in 2023 as global investors shunned assets perceived as risky, with a dearth of listings, a rise in global interest rates and China’s economic struggles.
With 40 exchanges across the continent, Africa could have as many as five company listings a day, Ruto said, but there are barely any, partly due to regulatory red tape. “If well harnessed, stock exchanges can be the engine that transforms Africa into a global economic powerhouse and financial centre of the world,” the president said.
Thapelo Thseole, the president of the African Stock Exchanges Association and CEO of the Botswana Stock Exchange, said regulatory changes in some countries have led to recent IPOs, citing a listing in Uganda by telecoms firm Bharti Airtel.
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