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Safaricom clears obstacle to a record IPO

08 октября 2007

Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest mobile operator, has moved a step closer to launching one of the biggest flotations in Africa after the government saw off a legal challenge from an opposition party seeking to scupper the initial public offering ahead of a presidential election.

Safaricom clears obstacle to a record IPOThe government intends to sell 25 per cent of the company, already part-owned by Vodafone, in an offering on Nairobi’s stock exchange forecast to raise KSh30bn-40bn ($450m-$600m).
But the opposition lawsuit, which was thrown out by the courts last week, has caused delays that are likely to scotch the government’s hopes of generating goodwill among retail investors by orchestrating a successful IPO before a December poll.
Michael Joseph, Safaricom’s chief executive, told the Financial Times: “I can’t see us listing this year. We’ll start the process, but it’s difficult to physically get it done in the time remaining.”
It should, however, be possible to open the share sale to the public before the year’s end, he said.
Interest in the stock market has burgeoned among ordinary Kenyans during the past 18 months and they have become accustomed to surges in the share prices of new stocks in first days of trading.
Safaricom has selected Morgan Stanley as joint adviser for the transaction; a reflection of the interest the flotation is also expected to attract from overseas investors. Several new Africa-focused investment funds have been set up in London and New York this year and telecommunications is regarded as one of the continent’s most promising sectors.
The company will set a record as east Africa’s biggest IPO. If valued at the top end of broker forecasts, it will be the biggest listing south of the Sahara this year outside South Africa.
The government currently owns 60 per cent of Safaricom and Vodafone has a 35 per cent stake, which it bought in 2000 and expects to retain but not to increase after the flotation. The remaining 5 per cent is held by Mobitelea Ventures, a Guernsey-based group whose ownership is a closely guarded secret.
Vodafone relies on emerging markets to offset the slowing growth in its core European business and it is keen to expand in Africa.
Safaricom has nearly 8m subscribers and claims a market share of about 70 per cent versus its lone rival Celtel, although independently verified figures are not available. It reported a pre-tax profit of KSh17bn for the year to March – the largest in Kenyan corporate history.
Its dominance is soon likely to come under threat, however, from Telkom, the state telecommunications monopoly, and from Econet Wireless. Both companies have now been awarded mobile licences.
But the opposition Orange Democratic Movement claimed the government had not followed proper procedures to prepare for the share sale.
The claim was rejected by the High Court but ODM can still appeal.
Legal uncertainty about Safaricom’s IPO led to Kenya’s NSE 20 index falling more than 7 per cent during the past month as the US stock market rallied.

Источник: Financial Times

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