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Ugandan multimillionaire Charles Mbire in high spirits as MTN IPO looms

MTN Uganda has been operating in Uganda since 1998 when it acquired a 20-year license.

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Ugandan multimillionaire Charles Mbire.

Ugandan tycoon Charles Mbire, the chairman of MTN’s operations in the East African country, is in high spirits as the telecom giant finalizes plans to list on the Ugandan Stock Exchange.

MTN Uganda announced earlier this week that it has received regulatory approvals to list 20 percent of its shareholding on the Kampala bourse, thereby making its shares available to retail investors from Kenya and other East African countries for the first time.

“The intention to float announcement is a major step towards delivering on our plan to list on the USE,” Mbire said in a press statement announcing the intention to list. “It is a reaffirmation of our long-term commitment to expand investment opportunities for Ugandans and we look forward to continuing our engagement with the CMA and USE to take forward the IPO and the listing.”

MTN’s listing on the Ugandan Stock Exchange is a victory for Mbire, who has been working behind the scenes to improve relations between the Ugandan government and the mobile telecom company. Relations between the government and the company have been tested over the past few years by a string of setbacks, including a delayed renewal of its operating license, the expulsions of its expatriate executives and a security raid on the company’s data center.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has often accused MTN of understating its revenues. In 2019, Uganda deported MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte less than a month after he assumed his position on accusations of compromising national security. There has also been resentment from the government toward the telecom over the paucity of Ugandans in top positions at the company.

When MTN’s 20-year license expired in October 2018, the firm applied for a 10-year extension and the Uganda Communications Commission granted it an interim renewal lasting 60 days pending resolution of a number of unspecified issues before a final license could be issued.

Following a prolonged negotiation with the government that dragged on for nearly two years, MTN Uganda finally reached an agreement to pay the Uganda Communications Commission $100 million for a 12-year license in Uganda valid from July 1, 2020.

An IPO was also one of the conditions for the renewal of the license.

MTN Uganda is the country’s largest telecom firm, with a subscriber base of 11 million.

The company contributed about 5 percent ($570 million) of the total revenue ($11 billionaire) of the MTN Group in 2020. MTN Uganda has been operating in Uganda since 1998 when it acquired a 20-year license. Mbire, a prominent businessman with interests in infrastructure, banking, agriculture and energy, is the company’s chairman and one of its largest shareholders.

East Africa

Ugandan tycoon Charles Mbire to pocket $1.15-million interim dividend from MTN Uganda

Mbire owns a significant 3.98-percent stake in the Ugandan telecom outfit.

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Charles Mbire.

Ugandan multimillionaire businessman Charles Mbire is on track to receive an interim dividend of Ush4.48 billion ($1.155 million) from his stake in MTN Uganda after the telecom group reported a double-digit percent increase in earnings in the first half of 2022.

MTN Uganda is Uganda’s leading telecom service operator.

Mbire, the chairman of MTN Uganda and one of Uganda’s wealthiest businessmen, owns a significant 3.98-percent stake in the Ugandan telecom outfit, which operates as the fourth operating subsidiary of the South African multinational mobile telecom company, MTN Group.

The interim dividend will be paid electronically into his bank account at a later date from the group’s retained earnings of Ush902 billion ($232.4 million) at the end of its 2022 fiscal year. It is his first dividend from the telecom company since its shares were listed more than eight months ago.

The dividend payment follows a significant rise in the group’s earnings in the first half of 2022 despite a 4.9-percent decline in voice revenue, as it looks set to replicate its stellar performance in 2021.

As a result of the company’s strong financial performance, the board of directors approved the payment of an interim dividend of Ush5 ($0.00128) per share for the six months ending June 30, totaling Ush11.95 billion ($28.9 million), which is subject to withholding taxes.

According to data retrieved from the company’s earnings report for the first six months of 2022, its profit increased by 48.1 percent to Ush193.6 billion ($50.2 million) in the first half of 2022, compared to Ush130.7 billion ($33.7 million) in the first half of 2021.

The double-digit increase in profit can be attributed to a 10-percent surge in the company’s service revenue, which was driven by a significant increase in data and fintech revenue, which were more than sufficient to offset the 4.9-percent decline in voice revenue.

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East Africa

Led by Kenyan founder Owen Sakawa, AI-powered startup Elloe acquires Flo by Saada

Elloe was founded in 2021 by Sakawa, Abhijay Rao, and Aaron Madolora.

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Owen Sakawa.

Elloe, a U.S.-based conversational commerce startup led by Kenyan tech entrepreneur Owen Sakawa, has acquired Flo by Saada nearly three months after raising more than $1 million in a pre-seed funding round led by institutional investors.

Flo by Saada is a Kenyan social commerce startup founded by Gerishon Mwaniki.

The acquisition of the startup, which launched in 2019 to enable small and medium enterprises to build solutions and process payments through USSD and programmable SMS, was completed for an undisclosed fee.

Through the acquisition, Elloe will be able to accelerate its next phase of growth by scaling operations for its corporate clients and expanding its footprint beyond its current operations in Kenya and the Philippines.

Commenting on the transaction in a press release obtained by Billionaires.Africa, Elloe CEO and Founder Owen Sakawa said: “The addition of Flo by Saada technology is a natural extension of Elloe’s offerings and fits perfectly into Elloe’s strategy. It transforms customer interactions from simple communications to conversations across the entire spectrum of customer engagement points.”

He added that Elloe will be better positioned to meet customers’ evolving needs in the future as it continues to provide businesses with embedded commerce capabilities to simplify the way that they serve, connect with, and sell to their own customers from anywhere, on any channel.

Elloe was founded in 2021 by Sakawa, Abhijay Rao, and Aaron Madolora as a first-of-its-kind AI-powered, conversational commerce platform that allows small and medium enterprises to buy and sell products online across messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.

With its proprietary technology that assists small businesses in managing their digital sales and customer service through an omnichannel platform that runs on messaging apps, the startup hopes to capitalize on opportunities in the $35-billion conversational commerce market, which has the potential to reach $130 billion by 2025 in emerging markets.

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East Africa

Controlled by Kenyan tycoons, Britam Holdings hints at sale of HF Group stake

Britam has classified its 48.2-percent stake in HF Group as held for sale.

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Peter Munga.

Britam Holdings has announced that it is reviewing a transaction that could result in the sale of all or a portion of its stake in HF Group, a Nairobi-based financial services group with interests in mortgage lending, corporate, and retail banking.

Britam is a diversified investment group and a leading insurer in East Africa.

Kenyan business leaders like Jimnah Mbaru, Peter Munga, James Mwangi, and Jane Wanjiru Michuki have significant shareholdings in the group.

In its 2021 annual report, the group classified its 48.2-percent stake in HF Group as held for sale, stating that it has hired a transaction advisor to engage potential buyers and other viable options within the current fiscal period.

“The directors approved the appointment of a transaction advisor to engage various interested parties with a viable option expected to be realized within the next twelve months,” the group stated.

The move represents a strategic turning point for the group, which is reorganizing its executive structure and reviewing its investments in financial services providers to diversify its portfolio and comply with regulatory guidelines limiting investments in a bank to 10 percent of an insurer’s total assets.

Britam’s latest disclosure comes four months after it completed the sale of a 6.7-percent stake in Kenya’s largest commercial bank Equity Group to the International Finance Corporation for Ksh14 billion ($121 million).

The management also stated that options for its stake in HF Group include reaching out to strategic partners who have the capacity to accelerate and support the process of turning HF Group around as it prepares to transition into mainstream banking.

These other options may assist Britam Group in realizing optimal value from its investment when compared to a full or partial divestment as it prepares to reduce its exposure to publicly traded companies. The position aligns with the group’s new strategy to minimize investment earnings volatility to the point where it has no impact on the group’s overall financial performance.

Since the start of the year, Britam’s shares have decreased in value by more than 20 percent, from Ksh7.5 ($0.063) to Ksh5.94 ($0.0498), resulting in losses of millions of dollars for Mbaru, Munga, Mwangi, and Michuki.

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