KENYA – Investment firm Centum has pumped Sh1 billion into Almasi Beverages through a rights issue, raising its stake in the bottling company to 53.8 per cent and signalling its intention to possibly take full ownership of the firm.

Almasi, the holding company of three Coca-Cola bottling firms was seeking Sh1 billion in expansion capital from its shareholders — who include the Industrial Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) — but received Sh600 million more.

The cash call, which happened for three weeks to mid-September, has now seen Centum raise its stake in the Almasi for the umpteenth time, cementing its controlling position.

“The conclusion of the rights issue means that the ICDC and Centum now control about 90 per cent of Almasi,” said Centum chief executive James Mworia, adding that the stakes of some minority shareholders were diluted.

“Over the past two years, we have injected approximately Sh3.6 billion into the company.”

The investment firm emerged with a 35 per cent equity in Almasi since it was created in 2013.

Centum has since then increased its interest in the firm several times, with the continued share purchases signalling its confidence in its future prospects.

Last December, Centum acquired a three per cent stake in Almasi for more than Sh100 million, pushing its stake to 50.95 per cent.

To acquire the additional 2.85 per cent stake, Centum in January made a limited offer to its more than 700 minority shareholders, proposing to buy each share for Sh6.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm said this price represented a 20 per cent premium on the effective merger price when Almasi was formed, terming it as attractive.

Centum’s Sh1.6 billion capital injection into Almasi will be spent partly on settling a loan used to install a returnable glass bottles line at the Nyeri factory last year.

The bottling firm is also finalising installation of a plastic bottles line at the same factory. The PET line, which will be commissioned next month with a capacity of 36,000 bottles per hour.

The funds have also been used to increase the water capacity at the Kisii as well as boost the warehouse capacity at the three factories by between 108,000 and 378,000 cases.

“Until now, we have been getting our PET products from other bottlers and sharing the margins,” said Mr Mworia.

Almasi is one of the largest players in Kenya’s beverage market with a market share of 29 per cent of the carbonated soft drinks.

It is the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler after Nairobi Bottlers where Centum also has 28 per cent stake.

November 22, 2016;