EABL taps new finance director from Diageo Plc

Seni Adetu said the new finance director, Tracey Barnes, brings rich expertise into the company. FILE
Seni Adetu said the new finance director, Tracey Barnes, brings rich expertise into the company. FILE 

Global beer giant Diageo has tightened its grip on the management of East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL) with the appointment of its executive to head the regional brewer’s finance department.

Tracey Barnes has been hired as the finance director of EABL from the London headquarters of Diageo, which owns 50.03 per cent of the brewer.

Before her appointment, Ms Barnes was the audit and risk director for Africa and Europe.

She takes the job previously held by Peter Ndegwa, who in Decemb

r was transferred to another Diageo subsidiary, Ghana Breweries Limited, as managing director. Ms Barnes reports on March 1.

Her appointment highlights the significant increase in the number of senior managers seconded from Diageo over the past two years.
“We are delighted on Tracey’s appointment. She brings rich global expertise and an immense opportunity for EABL to tap on her strong leadership skills,” said Seni Adetu, the chief executive officer of EABL in a notice to staff.

Her appointment comes when the giant brewer’s accumulated cash has been depleted by new acquisitions including the purchase of a 51 per cent of Tanzania’s Serengeti Breweries Limited for Sh4.9 billion.

It also received a Sh19.5 billion loan from Diageo to finance the re-purchase of its subsidiary, Kenya Breweries (KBL) from international beer maker SABMiller—which is expected to put pressure on the cash position of EABL on financing costs.

The brewer is also facing threats on its sales in the Kenyan market as the industry settles to the new alcohol law that reduces the number of hours bars can operate and legalising traditional, often cheap liquors.

Its cash position stood at Sh491 million in June compared to Sh6.7 billion in June 2010.

Analysts reckon that the need for tight cash management and new strategies to grow its share of the regional beer market informed the appointment of Ms Barnes—who is one of the few senior executives of Diageo to be posted in Nairobi.

“It’s important for EABL to have and experienced FD (Finance Director) given the headwinds it’s facing in the form of increased competition across the region and the financing needs,” says Eric Musau, an analyst at Standard Investment Bank.

In the regional market, it is facing intense competition from SABMiller, notably in Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan, and a re-energised Heineken—which is seeking a larger share of the East African market.

The need for growth has seen EABL review its talent in what has led to a broad shake-up of its executive suite over the past two year with the finance and sales division its main focus, signalling that the firm is betting on growing its top line across East Africa to shore up the bottom-line.

The reorganisation of its talent base has seen an increase in expatriates since Mr Adetu took over in 2009 from Gerald Mahinda in its quest for new people and ideas to ride the increasingly competitive beer market.

Top executives who have joined EABL from Diageo in the last two years include Mr Bonny Jojo (managing director of EABL International), Mr Geoff Biggs (sales director), Adesola Sotande (head of finance), Mr Mark Abbey, (group controller), Mr Cephas Alfebuameh (operations director) and Edmunds James (group legal counsel).

Executives who have been replaced include Mr Ken Kariuki, Ms Ann Mambo, Mr George Karanja and Mr Alban Mwendar —who headed the corporate affairs, the sales, strategy division and human resources respectively.

Its net profits grew to Sh7.3 billion in the year to June, compared to Sh7.1 billion it posted in a similar period last year, helped by higher product prices as beer volumes dropped one per cent.