6 December 2017

East Africa: Kenya's Uchumi Supermarkets CEO Resigns

Nairobi — Uchumi supermarkets Chief Executive Officer Julius Kipng'etich has resigned.

The company's board of directors made public Kipng'etich's resignation on Wednesday.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange listed retailer said it had reluctantly accepted the CEO's resignation effective November 30, who has left "to pursue personal interests."

In a public notice dated November 29, made public on Wednesday, Uchumi (Plc) chairperson Catherine Ngahu said the board of directors has commenced the process of identifying a suitable qualified successor to the Chief Executive Officer and will , "in due course, unveil the identified successor."

"In the interim, the Chief Finance Officer Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, will be the acting Chief Executive officer. The board remains committed to execute a turnaround strategy aimed at ensuring the company's return to profitability," Uchumi said in the statement.

Kipng'etich's resignation ends his two-year stint at the helm of the struggling retailer. He was brought in to turn around Uchumi in August 2015, after its former top management plunged the retailer into debt and losses.

Former CEO Jonathan Ciano was fired along with three other top managers for mismanagement.

The retailer posted a Ksh2.8 billion loss in its full year results for the year ending June 2016, compared to Ksh3.5 billion in 2015.

During Kipng'etich's tenure, the retailer managed to reduce its loss margins, with the most notable being the recent 40 per cent cut in its loss for the financial year ended June 2017.

The retailer recorded a Ksh1.7 billion loss compared to Ksh2.8 billion loss in 2016, which was attributed to improved cost management.

The outgoing CEO steered the company to reduce expenses by 42 per cent from Ksh3.6 billion in 2016 to Ksh2 billion.

Kipng'etich will also be remembered for successfully leading talks with suppliers who had pulled out supplies at the retailer over a Ksh3.6 billion debt.

He also helped initiated talks with a strategic investor who is poised to inject Ksh3.5 billion into the retailer, while it awaits a Ksh700 million loan from the government.

"The board takes this opportunity to thank Dr Kipng'etich for his dedicated service to the company during his tenure and wishes him well in his future endeavourers," the board said in the statement.

Kipng'etich joined Uchumi from Equity Group. He had served as the Kenya Wildlife Service CEO before joining the lender.

Among Kipngetich's other strategies to turn around Uchumi was adoption of a franchising model, working capital funding through shareholder loans and re-negotiation of supplier contracts.

The retailer has also been keen on disposing non-core property to pay-off debt owed to suppliers.

Last month, Uchumi appointed former UK retailer-Tesco executive Andrew Dixon as its Chief Operating Officer.

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