Category Archives: Safaricom

Coronavirus in Kenya: Week One

The Outbreak

  • March 13: The Ministry of Health confirms the first case of coronavirus in Kenya on March 12 from a Kenyan citizen who returned to the country from the USA via London 
  • March 22: Kenya confirms 8 new cases, bringing the total number to 15. It is tracing 363 other people and institutes a mandatory shutdown of major social activities in the country. 

Banking Industry:

  • March 15: President Uhuru Kenyatta appealed to banks and mobile operators to reduce the costs of mobile transactions and calls on Kenyans to use credit cards, mobile money and other forms of cashless payments. 
  • March 16: Safaricom waived fees for M-Pesa payments below Kshs 1,000 (~$10) for 90 days and raises M-Pesa transactions limits to Kshs 150,000 and also increases daily transaction caps and maximum mobile money wallet sizes up to Kshs 300,000 ($3,000). Airtel and Telkom Kenya follow suit a day later. 
  • March 18: Bankers meet the President at State House where the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor announces that all commercial bank personal loans that were there in good standing on March 2, are eligible for extensions for up to one year while SME and corporate borrowers can approach their banks to be assessed for loan restructuring, with the cost borne by banks. Also, that banks would no longer charge fees for customers to check their bank balances.
  • Different banks announced their compliance with the new rules.   
  • March 19: The Kenya Bankers Association confirms that all banks will assist clients who come in to speak about how COVID-19 has affected their employment or business operations, and whose loan repayments were up to date as at 2 March 2020. They also ask all customers to observe 1-metre (or 3 feet) social distancing at branches
  • March 20: The CBK announces presents Kshs 7.4 billion ($74 million) to the Government to support the coronavirus fight efforts. This it says are the proceeds from the demonetization exercise that concluded in September 2019 and is the sum of (old) Kshs 1,000 notes that were not turned in and which the CBK had classified as being miscellaneous receipts. 

Famous People in Quarantine

  • March 18: Senator for Kericho County Aaron Cheruiyot announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff who arrived from London on March 9 are reported to be in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Ambassador Macharia Kamau Kenya’s Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine after returning from New York. 
  • March 20: Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya announces on twitter that she is in self-quarantine, following her trip to the UK. 
  • March 22: Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health announces that Gideon Saburi, the Deputy Governor of Kilifi County, has been apprehended and put in a mandatory 14-day quarantine after he failed to isolate himself after returning from a trip to Germany. Also that he will be charged in Court after his isolation period. 

Mandatory Quarantine in the Eastern Africa region 

  • March 18: Uganda announces immediate mandatory quarantine for arriving visitors, at their cost.  
  • March 21: Ethiopia announces mandatory for passengers arriving from March 23, at their cost. However, diplomats will be quarantined for 14 days at their embassies, while transiting passengers will be placed in isolation at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel until they resume their connecting flights.
  •  March 22: Kenya has suspended all international flights other than cargo from March 25. Also, all arriving passengers will undergo mandatory quarantine at a government institution at their own cost. 

Internal country shutdowns

  • March 14: Rwanda closes schools, places of worship, large gatherings, and asks people to work from home. 
  • March 15: Kenya’s President announced the Government has closed all schools, suspended official foreign travel, and will encourage all employees to work from home. 
  • March 18: Uganda closes schools, universities and bars, and bans weddings and religious services for a month. 
  • March 21: Rwanda closes its borders to movement of people and cancels international flights, other than cargo ones. It also suspended tourism and research in 3 national parks where gorillas are found.
  • March 21: Nigeria shuts its airports to international flights as coronavirus cases reach 22.  
  • March 21: South Africa closes its airspace to foreign travelers.
  • March 22: Kenya orders a suspension of religious services at all places of worship, closure of bars and bans gatherings including weddings, and birthday parties. Restaurants are to remain open for delivery services and funeral events are restricted to a maximum of 15 mourners.

Flight cancellations/ Airlines reschedulings:

  • March 17: Kenya Airways updates its schedule, reducing London flights to five times a week, Dubai & Johannesburg to once daily, and Johannesburg to two daily. It also suspends flights to Bangkok, Khartoum, Djibouti & Mogadishu. 
  • March 18: Rwanda announces a halt to all commercial passenger flights into/out of the country on March 20 including operations of Rwanda Air for 30 days. 
  • March 19: Kenya Airways suspends flights to Antananarivo, Bamako, Bangui, Blantyre, Brazzaville, Kigali, Kilimanjaro, Luanda, Yaounde/Douala, and Zanzibar. 
  • March 20: Ethiopian Airlines announces 30 routes closures. The list is not revealed till the next day – and the listed countries include Egypt, Lebanon, Somalia, Djibouti, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Madagascar, Angola, Congo, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Indonesia, Israel and all US ones. 
  • March 20: South African Airways immediately suspends all operations until the end of May following a government notice prohibiting the embarkation/disembarkation of non-SA crew and passengers. The only flights that will remain will be domestic service between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
  • March 22: Emirates announces cancellation of all passenger flights from March 25 .. but .. 
  • March 22: Turkish Airlines to suspend most of its flights – leaving just a handful of flights to New York, Washington, Addis Ababa, Moscow & Hong Kong (via AlexinAir).
  • March 22: Kenya Airways suspends all international flights. Cargo flights remain, as will passenger services to Mombasa and Kisumu. 

Corporate Restructuring’s: 

  • March 13: Trading was suspended at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. This came following news of the discovery of the first coronavirus case in Kenya and the main share index dropped by over 5%. Past instances when circuit-et breakers have been tripped include in the period of post-election violence in 2008, and in September 2017, on the day that Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the August 8 presidential election. 
  • March 13: Kenya’s insurance regulator, IRA, communicates that insurance companies will continue to provide their services to policy holders affected or infected with the virus .. but insurance companies say their re-insurers do not cover pandemics such as Coronavirus. 
  • March 16: Ethiopian Airlines restructuring plans include scaling up cost-saving programmes and asking service providers for temporary relief, discounts and waivers. They have also started to renegotiate all contracts, including aircraft leases as well as scaling down offices and reducing staff.
  • March 16: Java adjusts seating and promotes delivery as do other restaurants. But many other restaurants closed. 
  • March 18: It was revealed that The Standard Group plans to lay off 170 workers. 
  • March 18: Churches to restrict attendance numbers.
  • March 18: The African Development Bank cancels all travels and requires staff to work from home. The Bank’s Board of Directors is reviewing the configuration and design of the Bank’s statutory Annual Meetings originally scheduled for May 26-29, 2020 in Abidjan
  • March 18: Kenyan listed companies and licensed investment schemes that were to host annual general meetings (AGM’s) in March, April and May 2020 have been asked to defer them to later dates.
  • March 20: Kenya Airways CEO sends a memo to staff following COVID-19 and writes that in the last 24 hours, nine countries in our Africa network, the UAE and India have announced travel restrictions. So far, we have reduced approximately 65% of our flights, and this is changing by the hour. He announces that instead of layoffs they will ask staff to take salary reduction and paid & unpaid leave. The leadership team and he will take 75% and 80% respectively, while that for other staff will be 25% or 50% depending on the pay grade.
  • To facilitate supermarket shopping home deliveries, Tuskys has partnered with Sendy and Naivas has partnered with Glovo.

Government Adjustments 

  • March 16: The Ministry of Lands closes all land registries for 28 days from March 17. 
  • March 16: Kenya’s Sports & Culture Ministry closes all museums, archives, stadiums, public libraries, and cinemas for 30 days.
  • March 18: Kenya’s National Assembly and Senate both go on a month-long recess. 
  • March 18: Kenyan courts embraced digital filings and rulings of cases. 
  • March 19: Public health campaign to stop the spread is launched. 

Uplifting News

  • March 21: A thread to help those losing jobs their jobs this week and to help match their skills with part-time or remote-work opportunities. 
  • March 22: The first shipment of medical relief equipment offered by the Jack Ma Foundation arrives in Africa for distribution to different countries. The total will be 500,000 test kits and one million masks had been pledged on March 13.

M&A Moment: November 2019

A roundup of East Africa merger deals announced, ongoing, or completed in the latter half of the year 2019. Most are drawn from approval decisions from the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK Kenya).

The deals include:

Airline/ Oil/Energy/Mining M&A

  • The CAK authorized the proposed acquisition of 863,477 Series B preferred shares in Windgen Power USA Inc. by Omidyar Network Fund LLC, Acumen Fund Inc., Stitching DOB Equity and Microgrid Catalytic Capital Partners. WindGen has operations in Kenya through its wholly owned subsidiary PowerGen Renewable Energy East Africa and the power it generates will be sold to Kenya Power.
  • Rubis, having completed the takeover of Kenol, are now going after Gulf Energy, the fourth-largest fuel marketer in Kenya with 46 stations.
  • A bid by the owners of IberAfrica, Kenya’s largest thermal power producer, to sell the company to a South African energy firm has collapsed. Read more.

Banking and Finance: Finance, Law, & Insurance M&A

  • The CAK approved the proposed merger between Commercial Bank of Africa and NIC Group on condition that they retain 1,872 employees for a period of 12 months. Post-merger, the market share of the entity will be 10.67%, making it the country’s second-largest bank.
  • Equity Group entered a non-binding agreement with certain shareholders of Banqué Commerciale du Congo (BCDC), for the purchase for cash of a controlling equity stake in BCDC, with a view to eventually amalgamating the business of BCDC with that of EGH’s existing banking subsidiary in DRC, Equity Bank Congo.
  • The CAK approved the proposed acquisition of National Bank of Kenya by KCB Group on condition that 90% of the merged entity’s employees will be retained for a period of eighteen months.
  • Fund manager ICEA Lion Asset Management has signed an agreement to acquire Stanlib Kenya’s business of managing funds, assets and investment in Kenya – including the Fahari I-REIT – in a deal valued at Kshs 1.5 billion. 
  • The business of non-deposit taking micro-finance carried on by Kenya Ecumenical Church Loan Fund has been transferred to ECLOF Kenya. 
  • The CAK has authorized the proposed acquisition of 93.57% of  Transnational Bank Plc by Access Bank Plc. The market share (of Transnational) is significantly low, and the acquirer intends to enter the Kenyan market and continue with the business of the target.
  • Exim Bank Tanzania acquired UBL Bank, a subsidiary of Pakistan’s UBL Bank, as part of its plan to expand nationwide and become a top- five bank in the country. It now has assets of 1.7 trillion Tanzania shillings. 
  • In 2017 private equity firm Capitalworks acquired AON’s shareholding in several African operations, alongside local shareholders including governments in many markets.
  • I&M Holdings unit, GA insurance has acquired 100% of Nova Insurance Company in Uganda. It is part of GA’s plan to expand across East Africa where insurance penetration remains low. (via Kenyan Wall Street).

Agri-Business, Food & Beverage M&A

  • Coca-Cola Sabco (East Africa), which owned 72% of Nairobi Bottlers, has bought 27.6% of that company from Centum Investments, along with 53.9 % of Almasi Bottlers for a total of Kshs 19.2 billion. Centum states that the stakes had a combined value of Kshs 16.8 billion. CAK approved the deals on condition that it continues to operate current bottling plants in Nyeri, Eldoret, Nairobi, Molo and Kisumu for at least three years and retains 1,749 of the 1,760 permanent employees for the same period. Also that Almasi reserves 20% of the storage space in its coolers to SMEs for products (excluding products of Coca-Cola’s three largest global competitors). Coca Cola shall also allow Coastal Bottlers to distribute other non-alcoholic ready-to-drink brands.
  • The CAK approved Vivo Energy B.V.’s proposed investment in Kuku Foods which operates 24 outlets in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Nanyuki under franchise from America’s Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
  • The CAK approved the proposed subscription of 33.9% and joint control of Maziwa by Pledge Holdco, which is wholly-owned by Texas Pacific Group (TPG). Maziwa is owned by Bainne and distributes of milk and milk-related products in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia under the brand name ‘Lola’.  The CA determined that the main players in the processed milk market, were Brookside Dairy (40%), New Kenya Co-operative Creameries, (25%), Sameer Agriculture (14%) and Githunguri Dairy Co-operatives (12%) while the merged entity will have a market share of 3.9%.
  • The CAK approved the acquisition of 100% of Aquamist Ltd by Aquapani Ltd. Aquapani is newly incorporated in Kenya as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Menengai for the sole purpose of this transaction. The deal is being done alongside Aquaplast which manufactures PET bottles, jars and closures and Polycarbonate plastics for refillable water containers mainly for the bottling business of Aquamist.
  • The CA-K approved an investment by Stitching DOB Equity and Acumen Fund into Coconut Holdings which had a turnover of Kshs 162 million in 2018. More here.
  • The CA-K approved the acquisition of 100% of Gilani Butchery by Upland Meat Products. Gilani had s turnover of Kshs 116.9 million in 2017.

Health and Medical, Pharmaceutical M&A

  • US pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson has teamed up with private equity firms, South Africa’s Inqo Investments and London-based Sumerian Partners, to buy out Naivasha-based South Lake Medical Centre in a deal valued at nearly Kshs 100 million. The hospital was acquired from Flamingo Horticulture which had established the facility to serve its low-income farmworkers.  
  • Interswitch has acquired eClat, expanding its reach into Nigeria’s health-tech sector. The move is the latest in a series of strategic investments into Africa’s growing digital marketplace by the firm. Asoko has tracked 8 other deals in the Nigerian health care industry since 2015, of which the eClat deal is the second involving a health-tech firm. Investors were most active in the pharmaceutical segment, with three deals in that space over the period. (via Asoko
  • The CAK authorized the acquisition of 54.23% of AAR Health Care Holdings by Hospital Holdings Investments. In addition to constructing a hospital, the acquirer is targeting equity investments in clinics and hospital chains across East Africa. The target operates 21 primary outpatient healthcare clinics in Kenya.

Logistics, Engineering, & Manufacturing M&A

  • The  CAK authorized the proposed acquisition of all ARM Kenya‘s (Under Administration) businesses, assets and properties by National Cement Company on condition that the merged entity ensures continued operation at ARM’s Kaloleni and Athi River plants and retains 95% of ARMs 1,100 employees.
  • The CAK authorized the proposed acquisition of the plastic manufacturing business of Metro Plastics (Kenya) by Metro Concepts East Africa on condition that the acquirer absorbs at least ninety employees. Metro Concepts East Africa, a company incorporated in Kenya, is ultimately owned by Ascent Rift Valley Fund, a private equity Fund incorporated in Mauritius, with minority control in investments across East Africa.
  • CAK has authorized the proposed acquisition of control of Chemi & Cotex Kenya by Unilever Overseas Holdings B.V on condition that the acquirer continues providing the products (Whitedent, Bodyline, Baby Soft, Skin Glow, Siri, U & Me, Lovely, Barnister and Tressa) in the market for at least three years.
  • The CAK approved the proposed acquisition of an additional 47.5% shareholding in Speedex Logistics Ltd by Suresh Naran Varsani. The transaction will result in a change of ownership from joint to sole control.
  • The CA-K approved the acquisition of direct control by Tuffsteel in Hwan Sung Industries Kenya which has a turnover of Kshs 5.8 million in 2018.
  • The CA-K has approved the proposed acquisition of 100% of the publicly held shares in Panalpina Welttransport Holding (Panalpina World Transport Holding) A.G by DSV. In Kenya, Panalpina Airflo provides freight forwarding services of perishable goods, mainly fresh vegetables and cut flowers.. Post-transaction, CA-K data shows that the the merged entity will have a market share of 18% air freight services [current leaders are Kuhene + Nagek (28%) Panalpina Airflo (15%) Freight Forwarders Group (9%) Air Connection (8%) Siginon Freight (7.5%) Bollore (6%) Schenker (4%) and DSV (3%)], 6% of the sea freight sector [current leaders are Maersk Line (18%), Century Cargo (14%), Mediterranean Shipping Company (11%), Filiken Transit (9%) Damco (7.5%) Panalpina (4%) Kuhene + Nagel (3%) DSV (2%)] and 1.5% of overland services and logistics .

Real Estate, Tourism, & Supermarkets M&A

  • The CAK approved the proposed acquisition of 100% of Quick Mart by Sokoni Retail Kenya, which is owned by Adenia Partners of Mauritius, a private equity fund manager. Quick Mart, incorporated in 2006, has 10 supermarket outlets located in Kiambu, Nairobi and Nakuru counties. In October 2018, Sokoni had acquired Tumaini Self Service, another retailer in Kenya with 13 outlets located in Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, and Kisumu counties. EDIT Quickmart has recently undergone a merger with Tumaini Self service stores and the merged entity will be the third largest retailer in Kenya, backed by a strong institutional investor, with plans to open 6 stores over the next year.
  • The CAK approved the proposed acquisition, with controlling rights, of 22.32%  of the Riara Group of Schools by Actus Education Holdings AB. Riara operates six learning institutions in Kenya which offer the 8.4.4 and British Curriculum education systems. The CA found that of the schools offering British Curriculum, Braeburn Schools with 10.2% of the students, Aga Khan Academy 7.1%, Srimad Premier Academy 3.8%, and Oshwal Academy 3.4%. The CAK has approved the acquisition of 100% of the shares in Abercrombie & Kent Group of Companies by Heritour Ltd. One of Abercrombie’s Kenya subsidiaries is a tour operator that offers tourist accommodation in the Maasai Mara.

Telecommunications, Media & Publishing M&A

  • The CAK authorized the proposed acquisition of 100% shareholding in Eaton Towers Holdings by ATC Heston B.V 
  • BRCK has acquired the Surf Network. BRCKs Moja Network passed 300,000 unique monthly users in January, with 1,500 mobile nodes in buses and matatus across Nairobi and Kigali. The new acquisition takes them close to 500,000 active monthly unique users,  and they state this is the largest public Wi-Fi network in East Africa, and second-largest on the continent. 
  • Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), the leading technology innovation centre in Nigeria, acquired Kenya’s iHub for an undisclosed fee. The deal will see the iHub become part of the CcHUB’s network, while retaining its name and senior management structure.  The move comes seven months after CcHUB expanded into Rwanda, with the launch of its Design Lab. 
  • The Airtel-Telkom merger is still ongoing. Kenya’s Parliament has raised some queries about the transfer of government assets and shares as has the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Rival Safaricom also stepped in and pressed for the two companies to settle a combined debt of Kshs 1.3 billion they are owed before the transfer is completed. They also argue that the merged entity will have an outsize frequency allocation (77.5 MHz of spectrum serving 17.3 million customers) compared to Safaricom (who serve 31.8 million customers with 57.5 MHz) and ask that this is rebalanced. EDIT December 14: The Competition Authority has approved the proposed acquisition of the mobile operations, enterprise and carrier services business of Telkom Kenya by Airtel Networks Kenya with conditions including; the merged entity shall not sell or transfer its licenses (Network facility provider, applications service provider, content service provider, submarine cable landing ) and frequency spectrum (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz), with the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz ones reverting to the Government after they expire. Also, the merged entity shall honour all agreements and not enter any sale agreements (for five years). It shall retain 114 Telkom Kenya employees for two years and 115 others of the merged entity and not enjoy preferential access to the 4,204 kilometers of fibre managed by Telkom on behalf of the Government.
  • The CAK authorized the proposed acquisition of 100% of  De La Rue Kenya by HID Corporation on condition that all existing contracts De La Rue has with the Kenyan Government are honoured.
  • The CAK has authorized the proposed establishment of a joint venture and the acquisition of control of certain assets of Kul Graphics, The Rodwell Press, Printfast Kenya, Digital Hub and Colourprint by The Print Exchange on condition that the parties retain 100 permanent employees of the merger parties for a period of one year after completion of the transaction and the 72 contractual employees serve to the end of their contracts.  In May 2019, the directors of the six companies had announced plans to merge due to the printing industry’s price sensitivity and demands for new technological innovations that had created financial and operational challenges for them.
  • The CAK has approved the acquisition of 80% of iWayAfrica Kenya by Echotel International Proprietary. iWayAfrica Kenya provides a range of ICT services. The CA estimated market shares for the main providers of retail Internet access services to be Telkom Kenya (28%), Liquid Telecom (25%), Safaricom (14%), Internet Solutions (13%) and Simbanet (4%). iWayKenya is at 1.2% and Echotel at 0.6%.
  • It was announced this week that two of Tanzania’s best-known telecommunications companies – Tigo and Zantel – have completed there merger, combining their operations on both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. (via Arden Kitomari)
  • The CA-K approved the acquisition of direct control of Digital Packaging Innovation Holdings and A-One Plastics by Rifts Investments.
  • ScanGroup is set to sell two of its subsidiaries for more than Sh2.4 billion in a deal that was triggered by a related transaction involving its London-based parent company WPP Plc with Bain Capital. Read more.

Other M&A

  • The business carried on by Pa’shante Enterprises in Nairobi has been sold and transferred to Pashante Greens Africa.
  • The assets and inventory of Mapflex East Africa at Airport North Road will be transferred to Actiflex Ltd. 
  • The business of a barber and spa carried on Crystal Barber and Spa on Kiambu Road has been sold and transferred to Esther Kinya Guantai. 
  • The CAK authorized the proposed acquisition of Honos Parent Ltd by Doctor No Parent Ltd. CR Honos has operations in Kenya through its subsidiary, Kenya Kazi Limited that provides manned guarding services — secure journeys/events, VIP protection, and cash in transit – as well as alarms fire suppression & detection.

Since the last update in January 2019

Double 11 (Singles’ Day) Festival in China

November 11 marks a huge shopping festival by Alibaba in China. Known as “Singles’ Day” or “11.11”, it is now acknowledged as the largest e-commerce day in the world. It is mainly on Alibaba platforms like Tmall and Taobao. Rival commerce sites such as JD.com and Lazada also run their own festival days during China’s long shopping season.

Singles’ Day 2019 saw another record year of sales reaching $23 billion (158 billion yuan) in nine hours. Sales hit $1 billion in the first minute and 500 million shoppers were expected to participate. This was achieved despite a slowdown in China’s economy and the ongoing trade spat with the US. Singles’ Day is three times bigger than the largest US largest shopping day – Cyber Monday which had $8 billion of sales in 2018.

Some numbers about Singles’ Day from Jing Daily.

  • On 11.11, Alibaba sells more on one day than many countries do in a year.
  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma has a plan for the company to attain $1 trillion of gross merchandise volumes in 2020 and create 100 million jobs, and serve 2 billion customers. As such the company is expanding in other countries. In 2017, Russia, Hong Kong and the US were the main markets.
  • International brands are signing on with discounts and specials, and in 2018, 237 brands, including Apple, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Nestlé, Gap, Nike, and Adidas has sales of 100 million Yuan ($14 million) on Singles’ Day.
  • The holiday was originally aimed at young men (bachelors), but has now evolved such that key targets for brands include China’s 400 million millennials, the “aspirational class” and women, the “she economy.” 
  • Over 80% of the Singles’ Day sales are made on a mobile device .. so retailers need to enhance the whole shopping experience by employing unique mobile features like live streaming, interactive games, virtual reality, video marketing, and digital storytelling.
  • On Singles’ Day in 2017, 1.5 billion transactions were processed by Alibaba’s Alipay.

Other Notes:

Kenya’s Safaricom, which has a partnership with AliExpress, also had some Singles’ Day promotions. They signed a deal in March this year enabling Kenyans to shop on ALiExpress and pay with M-Pesa.

The Jack MA Foundation runs an annual Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) that awards a total of $1 million in prize money to ten African entrepreneurs each year.

Read more about 11.11 from Jing Daily here.

EDIT: Alibaba reported that Singles’ Day 2019 generated US $38.4 billion of gross merchandise volumes. It featured 200,000 brands and resulted in 1.3 billion delivery orders.

Ineos 1:59

Today Kenya stood still, and the world watched as Eliud Kipchoge ran a specially staged marathon in Vienna Austria completing it in under two hours. The event dubbed “Ineos 1:59” was an unprecedented partnership event, backed by British chemical company Ineos and its billionaire Chairman,  Jim Ratcliffe.

Kipchoge ran the 42 kilometre-length course on a time of 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds, dipping under the two-hour mark for the first time in marathon history. This was his second attempt at breaking the milestone mark. He had tried this in May 2017 and come 25 seconds short in another special run at the historic Monza Formula One track in Italy. That was in a project supported by Nike, dubbed “Breaking2.”

Eliud Kipchoge is currently the world record holder for the marathon with a time of 2:01:39 that he set at the 2018 Berlin marathon. He is also the reigning Olympic champion (2016 Rio games), and at 34 years old, has won 12 of 13 competitive marathons he has entered since 2013 including the London marathon four times, and the Berlin marathon three times.

Also used in support of the Ineos 1:59 challenge was an electric-powered Audi SUV, driven at a constant pace throughout the race, that projected laser beams to guide Kipchoge and his rotating team of forty-one elite pacesetters from across the world – Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Uganda, Ethiopia, and several of his Kenyan compatriots

Local brands that have supported Kipchoge include Safaricom and Isuzu East Africa who signed him up as a brand ambassador in September 2017.  And last week, Safaricom changed its M-Pesa brand to read “Eliud 1:59” for seven days and rolled out a free 1.59 gigabyte data bundle to enable Kenyans to watch Kipchoge’s run on their phones or their home devices via YouTube.  It is reported that over 3 million subscribers signed up for the special data bundle. 

Safaricom eye international expansion using M-Pesa

Safaricom announced another year of record earnings through innovation and payments, despite a tough economy in Kenya and with an extra bonus for their shareholders.

For 2018, Safaricom recorded revenue of Kshs 240.3 billion (~$2.4 billion), an increase of 7%, and a net profit of Kshs 63.9 billion. The growth was attributed to M-Pesa which, grew by 19% to Kshs 75 billion, and which accounted for 75% of the revenue growth in the year. They also reported that there were 22.6 million active M-Pesa customers and these customers made an average for 12.2 transactions a month, up from 7.4 transactions a month, three years ago.

Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a said it had been a challenging year with constrained credit (from bank interest rate caps) and inflation limiting discretionary income while the government had added taxes on mobile transactions  Unlike last year‘s event where the company had earnings before interest guidance of Kshs 89.6 billion, this year CEO Bob Collymore was present at the Friday morning investor briefing at the company’s headquarters complex in Nairobi where he announced that he was proud that the company had achieved an EBITDA of 50% which was unprecedented in the mobile world.

Ng’ang’a announced that the company would have to look for growth elsewhere beyond Kenya, while Collymore said this could be by taking charge of the M-Pesa brand from Vodafone and leading the expansion across Africa with new shareholder Vodacom and he cited new M-Pesa global partnerships that Safaricom had signed with  PayPal, Google (play store) Western Union and AliExpress.

This year the company rolled out Fuliza, the world’s first mobile phone overdraft that has seen over Kshs 45 billion borrowed so far. In terms of banks, Collymore said the era of competing with them was now over, and there would be more collaboration. Last week, Safaricom renewed a partnership with Equity Bank that will aim to improve financial inclusivity, cash management and security.

From the 2018 results, Safaricom will pay shareholders Kshs 1.25 per share, an amount totalling Kshs 50 billion. They will also, for a second time since listing, pay a special bonus dividend of Kshs 0.62 per share – totaling Kshs 24.84 billion.