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Centum seeks more shares of Coca-Cola bottling firms

Centum CEO James Mworia. PHOTO | FILE
Centum CEO James Mworia. PHOTO | FILE 

NSE-listed investment company Centum is set to buy more shares in Almasi Beverages, signalling its intention to possibly take full ownership of the holding company of three Coca-Cola bottlers that it owns.

The firm has made a limited offer to a section of Almasi’s minority investors whose shares it has proposed to buy at Sh6 each.

“We have no lower or upper limit in buying Almasi’s shares,” said Centum CEO James Mworia, adding that the company stands ready to buy any Almasi shares offered for sale.

He declined to say what it would cost Centum –which already owns a 50.95 per cent stake in Almasi— to buy the remaining balance, assuming all of it is available for sale.

The amount could however top the Sh1.6 billion mark based on Centum’s last purchase of Almasi’s shares in December.

Centum has raised its interest in the company several times since its creation in 2013 through the amalgamation of Mount Kenya Bottlers, Rift Valley Bottlers and Kisii Bottlers.

The last transaction came in December when it acquired a three per cent stake in the company for over Sh100 million, pushing its cumulative stake to the current 50.95 per cent.

The investment firm emerged with a 35 per cent equity in Almasi when it was created, with the continued share purchases signalling its confidence in the company’s future prospects.

Centum has avoided making a block offer for all the remaining shares, preferring to acquire the stock in bits from willing sellers. The latest buyout offer appears to target specific Almasi shareholders referred to as “sellers”.

“Centum is pleased to announce its intended acquisition of ordinary shares in Almasi Beverages in accordance with the terms of this letter of offer,” the company said in a December 4, 2015 letter seen by the Business Daily.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) company says the offer price of Sh6 per share represents a 20 per cent premium on the effective merger price when Almasi was formed, terming it as attractive.

Investors willing to sell their shares to Centum must submit their buyout acceptance forms on or before next Friday, January 15, when the offer closes.

The investment firm could, however, extend the offer period at its discretion. Centum says its increased interest in Almasi is part of its strategy to invest in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector that it sees growing further on the back of rising incomes and population growth.

“Almasi is expected to grow revenues by over 19 per cent annually due to due to planned activation of 10,000 new outlets and increased capacity following the commissioning of a new 36,000 bottles per hour line in Mount Kenya Bottlers and the expected commissioning in the first quarter of 2016 of a new PET line,” the company said in its latest annual report.

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 in the country after Nairobi Bottlers where Centum is also a shareholder with a 28 per cent stake.

Nairobi Bottlers accounts for about half of Coca-Cola branded sodas in the country, indicating Centum’s expanded interest in the soft drinks market.

As part of its push into the FMCG market, Centum recently established a new subsidiary-- King Beverage Limited-- which has a distributorship license for Carlsberg Beer.

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