A day after he resigned, it has emerged that Standard CEO am Shollei may have dug his own grave in the name of turning around the Standard Group, the second leading multi-media company in Kenya.
Someone close to Shollei said he had resigned last week due to frustrations and was waiting for the board to accept his resignation, which it did today and appointed the finance director Mr Orlando Lyomu to act.
Under the conflict of interest, Shollei is accused of using the Standard print, electronic and digital platform to campaign for his wife, Gladys Boss Shollei, who ran and won the Uasin Gishu County Woman Representative seat. As Standard promoted Gladys on their platforms, it forgot to cover candidates affiliated to KANU, the former ruling party headed by Gideon Moi, who is a principal shareholder in Standard Group.
The Moi family owns majority shares in Standard while about 25% is listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). “KANU candidates were never featured on Standard or KTN, while his wife was constantly being covered,” a source said. “He didn’t play the politics well.”
Moving back to town
But that is just a fraction of Shollei’s woes. The former Nation Media Group manager is also accused of overspending on the shifting of its head offices and newsroom from Standard Group Centre Mombasa Road to city centre. According to board insiders, the management spent Ksh60 million on the movement to I&M building, which included rent, refurbishing and furnishing offices.
The movement has flopped, sources say. The proponents of the movement, led by Editorial Director Joseph Odindo, argued that being based in the city centre would increase circulation for Standard, but that has yet to be achieved. This points to the fact that the problem with Standard Group lies not in the location but somewhere else, possibly content.
The redesign of the Standard in March this year has also been questioned. The board’s feeling is that the change of design and content are not paying off after the company splashed over Sh60 million on it. It has also emerged that the latest redesign, done by American design experts, followed another one executed by Germans but which was discarded in favour of the Americans. What caused this change is not clear.
Then there is the little but explosive issue that will have employees cringing. The Standard management had proposed another round of retrenchment to the board to save the company more funds, which would have required millions of shillings, but the board rejected it, arguing it was too soon after the November 2015 layoff.
I’m not replacing Bob Collymore, says Vodafone Ghana CEO
Yolanda Cuba says media and social media reports were ‘fake news’ and even wished Collymore a quick recovery.
Since Bob Collymore took medical leave three weeks ago, there has been a wave of silent rumours over his fate at Safaricom. The talk has been that Collymore had been sent on leave to pay way for a new CEO.
Today, the rumours acquired a new life, with reports that Vodafone Ghana CEO Yolanda Cuba was set to replace Collymore at Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile operator and one of Africa’s richest companies. Ms Cuba has, however, dismissed the rumours.
Ms Cuba says media reports and social media discussions were ‘fake news’ and even wished Collymore a quick recovery. “Fake news are not news. Bob Collymore, wishing you a speedy recovery so that you can get back to your job,” Cuba wrote on her Twitter handle.
At the same time, Safaricom’s former CEO and the current Kenya Airways Chairman Michael Joseph has confirmed that Collymore has not resigned urging people to instead support him with prayers and love instead of ill-informed and malicious comments.
“I have just visited Bob Collymore and he has not resigned and is doing fine under the circumstances,” he said.
Late last month, Safaricom announced that Collymore would be taking leave to receive specialized treatment for a number of months. The telco company appointed Chief Financial Officer Sateesh Kamath to take a primary role.
Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a said the company will perform strongly despite Collymore’s leave.
Ng’ang’a says Collymore’s style of management is very strong as he has empowered managers to adequately work well. Bob Collymore’s illness has remained under wraps, with a source at the company saying he prefers hi pirvacy. “We would like to respect the confidentiality between both Bob Collymore and his doctors and cannot speculate on his illness,” he said.
Safaricom posted an increase in its half-year net income to Sh26.2 billion compared to Sh23.93 billion previously. Mobile data was the largest contributor growing by 31 percent to Sh17.55 billion compared Sh13.4 billion in the previous year.
Former NTV business editor Wallace Kantai appointed CBK head of communications
The former NTV business editor replaces Grace Okara, an economist who has been redeployed within Central Bank of Kenya
Former NTV business editor Wallace Kantai has landed a new job. He is now the Head of Communications at Central Bank of Kenya, six months after leaving Nation Media Group.
Kantai replaces Grace Okara, who has been Head of PR & Communications. The fate of Ms Okara is not clear yet, but insiders say she has been redeployed to a different department at the CBK. Ms Okara, an economist by profession, joined CBK in June 2016 from the Kenya School of Monetary Studies where she worked at its research centre.
Announcing Kantai’s appointment today, Central Bank of Kenya said Kantai, who left NTV in May this year under unclear circumstances, is a familiar media and communications professional.
“During his media career,” CBK said, “Wallace has interviewed and interacted with many world and regional leaders, heads of global businesses, and policymakers. He has also served as moderator for a number of high level panels and conferences.”
RELATED: Why Wallace Kantai quit NTV
The business media fraternity will certainly welcome Kantai’s entry at CBK as, for the first time in many years, the banking regulator will have a communications person with a strong media background. Non-media communication professionals often frustrate journalists and try too hard to push only PR stuff by shielding the regulator from probing media.
Mr Kantai’s experience extends beyond the media as he has also held positions in Information Technology sector, and in the non-profit and public relations fields in Kenya, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Before Ms Okora the position of head of communications was held by Samsom Burgei, who moved to the Nyeri Currency Centre last year.
At Nation Media, Kantai became a victim of the convergence model being implemented by media house, which led to the collapsing all its business media platforms – print, digital and TV – into one.
The business desks were put under the Business Daily, led by managing editor Ochieng Rapuro. Journalists from Daily Nation and NTV, which was then headed by Kantain, had their reservations about the new development. It then created tension between bosses from print and broadcast, forcing Kantai to exit.
At CBK, Kantai is expected to play a key role in repositioning communications and how the governor and the entire CBK interacts with media. The business media expects to make the Governor and chairman more accessible away from the regular press conferences.
“CBK welcomes Wallace to the Bank fraternity and looks forward to leveraging on his wide experience in the communications and related fields, in our efforts to ensure an open and vibrant exchange with members of the media and the public at large,” said the CBK.
For Kantai, it is a case of the boot changing feet. As a journalist and editor, he controlled what would be aired and now he will have to expand his relations with media people to establish a mutual working relationship.
Another senior KQ manager quits
Kenya Airways’ human resources director Sammy Chepkwony has resigned from the national carrier, just five months after joining from Tata Chemicals Magadi where he held a similar position. Mr Chepkwony announced his departure through a memo to staff, explaining that he had decided to part ways with the airline effective Thursday to “pursue other interests.”
Mr Chepkwony joined KQ on June 2, having been recruited to fill a position that was until then being held in acting capacity by Lucy Muhiu who has also left the company. “It has been an interesting time meeting and working with the KQ team across the network. I particularly enjoyed my participation in the transformation journey,” Mr Chepkwony said in his memo.
“I take this opportunity to thank you all for your valuable support and with you all the very best in the successful turnaround of the Pride of Africa (KQ). You will in due course be notified of who will take over the leadership of the HR team.”
Mr Chepkwony has more than 20 years of experience in the HR sector, having worked for companies such as James Finlay Kenya, Nairobi Bottlers and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Nairobi.
RELATED: Meet the new CEO shaking up KQ
Mr Chepkwony is the latest in a series of executives who have left the financially-struggling airline since Sebastian Mikosz took over as chief executive from Mbuvi Ngunze.
Catherine Moraa (head of internal audit), Ms Muhiu (head of employee relations), Kevin Kinyanjui (information systems director), and Brian Mbuti (in-flight and jet fuel procurement) have all left the company.
Christopher Oanda, who has been in charge of KQ’s supply chain department for nearly nine years, also left the airline on October 16.
Inside the mind of Safaricom CFO Sateesh Kamath
The fact is we are part of a society and whatever happens to the society will directly and indirectly affect us.
On 15th Sept, Safaricom held its annual general meeting at Bomas of Kenya. The company’s shareholders approved the payment of a final dividend of 0.97, changed its name from Ltd to PLC status and announced plans to open new customer care centers in Thika and Eldoret.
On the sidelines, THE KENYAN WALL STREET had a chat with Safaricom chief finance officer (CFO) Sateesh Kamath and below is our conversation.
1. Effects of the ongoing politics on the company’s investment decisions. How are you mitigating the risks and how are you adjusting to them?
Satesh Kamath: From our perspective we have shareholders that are very confident in Kenya as a long term business. Things like elections create short term headwinds but our shareholders have a long term view of the company. As such, we have not slowed down our investments at all.
On mitigation, we look at what is right for our customers. So we worked to ensure customers have connectivity and as a good corporate citizen worked to ensure we supported this important democratic process.
2. A week before and after the Aug 8th Presidential election, Safaricom said that it had suffered an estimated revenue loss of between Ksh310.2 million and Ksh 414 million on its M-Pesa money transfer business due to a slowdown caused by a tense presidential vote. Do you expect the same in the re-run?
Sateesh Kamath: To be honest, it is difficult to forecast. The fact is we are part of a society and whatever happens to the society will directly and indirectly affect us.
3. How do you plan to pay for the expansion plans? Rights issue, debt or tap into your free cash?
Sateesh Kamath: It’s too early to speak on this. It depends on the realities that will take place in the next few year as these opportunities unfold. The preference would be to first fund them with the strength of the balance sheet and then naturally extend the same to borrowing.
4. M-Pesa’s growth in Kenya & EA has been extraordinary and it’s has been a challenge in some countries such as South Africa. Given that M-Pesa is a Safaricom product, and expansion would need significant financial muscle, would the costs related with this venture be incurred entirely on Safaricom or would you pursue partnerships?
Sateesh Kamath: The structure we plan to pursue with the expansion of M-Pesa is over the top. When you do over the top, you are basically leveraging the asset you already have on the ground. This is different from expanding into the telco space inorganically in other markets. At a very high level, our expectation is that this will not require a very huge investment. We call this off balance sheet leveraging and we don’t expect this to dramatically change the shape of the balance sheet.
5. In your experience, which upcoming business segments/products within the company have a strong growth potential and need for investments?
Sateesh Kamath: There are many ways of looking at growth one is looking at what quantum of growth is contributed by what while the other is to look at what gives you growth today and what gives you growth in the future. For the immediate future, a lot of growth will come through M-Pesa and data, specifically mobile data. In the long term, we are making investments today with the customer in mind and streams like Masoko, Fixed data will start to chip in going forward.
6. Do you think the strategy of M-Pesa interoperability could have any short or long term impact on the company’s revenues?
Sateesh Kamath: One, is how we look at competition. I don’t think the right way is to look at it and compare what business they are doing. The appropriate way to look at it is how my customers want and how close I am to servicing their need. How can we make their lives better and efficient. That is how we are looking at mobile money interoperability. We think customers will remain with us despite what is on offer across board based on the merit of what we have to offer.
7. Speak about the consistent growth and improvement of EBITDA.
In Safaricom will believe in three things that are very important for us. They include purpose, our people and the profit and we try and balance all three. Fortunately, our customers have responded well to our offerings because they see value in what we offer. As a result we have been able to grow revenue, contain costs and get EBITDA. [This article was first published on Kenyan Wall Street ]
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