Tanzania billionaires buy big chunk of Safaricom

 Aunali and Sajjad Rajabali have been accumulating shares in NSE-listed firms over the past two years

Two Tanzanian billionaires have bought 10 million shares of Safaricom worth Ksh295 million, becoming the third-largest individual investors in the telecommunications firm. The investments of Aunali and Sajjad Rajabali in the region’s most profitable company is disclosed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm’s April regulatory filing of its ownership structure.

The Rajabalis are now ranked behind billionaire investor John Kibunga Kimani who has 11.8 million shares worth Ksh348 million and Ramaben Patel — the top individual investor with 12.7 million shares currently valued at about Ksh374 million. The duo has been accumulating shares in NSE-listed firms over the past two years, with their cumulative investment standing at more than Ksh1.8 billion.

The Rajabalis have taken significant stakes in Equity Group, Co-op Bank, KenolKobil, Jubilee Holdings and I&M Holdings. Safaricom is the most profitable company in the country, having dominated the various segments in the telecommunications market including voice, mobile data and mobile cash transfers. 

Analysts say the attractiveness of the telco going forward will depend on the scope and intensity of proposed regulations which arose after fears that the company has cornered the market, leaving its rivals in devastating losses.

Safaricom made a net profit of Ksh55.2 billion in the year ended March, a 14.1 per cent rise from Ksh48.4 billion the year before. The company declared a dividend of Ksh1.1 per share or a total of Ksh44 billion, representing an 80 per cent payout.

The telcos’ generous dividend distribution has been supported by minimal debt, with the company funding its heavy capital expenditure from internally generated cash.

The biggest uncertainty about Safaricom’s future performance is seen arising from new regulatory actions.

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“The numbers reported suggest that the company still makes a compelling case to buy, on price dips for the long term investor. Regulation, especially asymmetrical tariffs and restrictions on non-replicable offerings may be a key concern in coming months,” Standard Investment Bank said in a statement.

“We think it is inevitable that a material regulatory decision will be made despite protests given the current industry structure. The magnitude, however, remains uncertain. Certain measures may also take longer to implement.”

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