4 February 2013

Kenya: Uchumi Eyes Rwanda Market in the Next Phase

UCHUMI Supermarket is considering setting up operations in the fast growing Rwandan market though these plans are still at conceptual stage.

Chief executive Jonathan Ciano said the retail chain wants to venture into the East African country because of the noted success in its subsidiaries in neigbouring countries of Uganda and Tanzania.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange listed retailer is also at an advanced stage of cross-listing its shares on the Rwandese Stock Exchange as well as the the Uganda and Tanzania securities market.

The retailer is currently going through the formal process of getting the required regulatory approvals from the countries' authorities.The cross-listing plan was approved last December by shareholders. Shareholders also approved a Sh1.5 billion rights issue to raise capital for expansion. The management is at the moment working out on the modalities of the rights issue.

Setting up a branch in Rwanda is however not a requirement before the cross-listing, Ciano said."Rwanda is one area that the board is going to consider," Ciano said over the weekend during the Talii na Uchumi Christmas promotion grand draw.

"But there is no contractual agreement with any developer so far," Ciano was quick to confirm while also declining to give a timeline on the plan. If the plan is successful, Uchumi will become the second Kenyan retailer to set up shop in Rwanda after Nakumatt. It will also join other Kenyan companies such as Kenya Commercial Bank and Equity Bank which operates in Rwanda.

At the moment, Ciano said focus is on strengthening operations in Uganda and Tanzania while also adding more branches in Kenya. In Uganda, the retailer has five branches with another two in the pipeline. In Tanzania where the supermarket has one of the largest shopping malls, the retailer plans to open between three and five branches in the near future.

Uchumi has 22 branches in Kenya currently and more are in the pipeline. For instance, Ciano said new branches will be opened in Kisii and Mombasa in a month's time. There are also advanced plans to open outlets in Maua, Ukunda, Kiambu Road, Thika and expansion of the Thika Road-based Jipange branch.

Radio Africa Group chief executive Patrick Quarcoo lauded the ambitious growth path of Uchumi which was at threat of closure in 2006 before the government bailed it out.

"A case study ought to be written about Uchumi," Quarcoo said, who was the chief guest at the event.

Numerous prizes including annual school fees, fridges, one year personal insurance cover, hotel mean packages and vacations to places such as Maasai Mara, Watamu, Zanzibar and Diani were won. Over 2.5 million entries were made in the two-month promotion.

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