Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kenya - ownership of Safaricom

Lobby asks Treasury to reveal Mobitelea owners ahead of IPO

The Government was Tuesday asked to make public ownership of a company with a 10 percent shareholding of Safaricom before the mobile phone firm issues its shares to the public.

Ownership of Mobitelea Ventures Limited has remained mysterious since last year when the Parliamentary Public Investment Committee questioned the transfer of Safaricom shares to it.

Vodafone Kenya Ltd, a subsidiary of Vodafone Group PLC of UK, transferred the shareholding to Mobitelea. The House watchdog team described the move as grand corruption.

The Government is yet to react to the report.

Vodafone Group PLC had acquired 30 per cent shareholding in Safaricom from Telkom Kenya, which owned Safaricom Kenya Limited before entering into a strategic partnership with the UK company.

Since the Government announced it will sell 25 per cent shares of its stake in Safaricom to the public through the IPO, concerns have been raised over ownership of Mobitelea Ventures Limited.

On Tuesday, African Centre for Open Governance - AfriCOG asked the Government to freeze the Safaricom shares transferred to Mobitelea until the issue of how the whole transaction was done is made clear.

In a paid up advert in one of the local dailies, AfriCOG boss Gladwell Otieno said the issue must first be made clear to the members of the public before they start buying the Safaricom IPO’s on Friday.

Efforts to get a comment from Treasury were fruitless.

“The matter is very sensitive and neither the minister nor the permanent secretary is in,” a secretary at Treasury told Nation.

She explained that Finance minister Amos Kimunya and his PS Mr Joseph Kinyua were in day-long meeting.

She referred the Nation to their public relations officer who was also not in at the time. But a secretary at the PRO’s office said her boss will be available Wednesday to answer the questions.

In their advert, AfriCOG queried the rush to dispose of the Safaricom shares.

“Why is there so much pressure to proceed with the Safaricom IPO during the deepest crisis Kenya has ever experienced?” they asked.

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