BOC Kenya chief Maria Msiska to leave after five years at helm

BOC Gases Managing Director Maria Msiska during a past event. She is set to leave the firm. PHOTO | FILE
BOC Gases Managing Director Maria Msiska during a past event. She is set to leave the firm. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Industrial gas producer BOC Kenya’s managing director Maria Msiska is set to leave after a five-and-a-half-year stint at the company.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm advertised her position Wednesday, signalling its intention to appoint her replacement in the coming months.

“A candidate is sought to fill the position of managing director Kenya, reporting to the general manager emerging Africa region,” BOC said in the notice.

Mrs Msiska was hired from the Africa office of BOC’s parent firm Linde Group, where she was the head of finance.

Her next move was not immediately clear as she could not be reached for comment.

She recently joined the board of infrastructure development firm InfraCo, where she was appointed a non-executive director in March.

InfraCo, which specialises in transport, energy and sanitation projects across Africa, is currently working with Kenya Railways to develop the Nairobi Commuter Rail Project.

This will involve rehabilitation of about 65 kilometres of the existing rail system within Nairobi, construction of five to seven kilometres of a new track to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), and the rehabilitation or construction of stations and other facilities along the network. 

InfraCo is backed by western governments including Germany, the UK, and Norway.

Mrs Msiska was appointed to head BOC in 2010 after the company failed in its bid to acquire its rival Carbacid, a takeover that would have given it a presence in the lucrative carbon dioxide market.

BOC in 2009 withdrew its bid for Carbacid after the Capital Markets Authority opposed the acquisition, paving the way for the two firms’ re-admission to trading at the NSE in the same year after their suspension in 2005.

Failure of the proposed buyout has led to a decline in BOC’s sales and profits over the years, with the company facing more competition in areas like oxygen sales.

Carbacid, which also runs an investment arm, has meanwhile performed relatively better partly due to increased carbon dioxide sales to the fast-growing beverage industry in the region.

Mrs Msiska in 2012 told the Business Daily that BOC was considering venturing into the carbon dioxide business using its dormant licence for mining and manufacture of the gas.

The plans are however yet to be executed. BOC will be looking up to the new managing director to develop and implement strategies that will ensure the company improves its profitability.

The firm posted a 24 per cent decline in net profit in the half year ended June, weighed down by lower sales which the manufacturer attributed to increased competition from imported products.

Its net profit in the period stood at Sh65.1 million compared to Sh85.6 million a year earlier.

Revenue tumbled

The company’s revenue tumbled 17.5 per cent to Sh556.5 million, contributing to the reduced profitability.

BOC said its turnover dropped “due to cheap imports of oxygen and nitrogen, which also constrained the company’s ability to recover cost increases through pricing.”

The company said it had to reduce its prices to protect its market share in the wake of the increased competition.

Its profitability was also hurt by foreign exchange losses and higher depreciation and provisioning for bad debts.

Its forex losses more than doubled to Sh10.5 million, reflecting the impact of depreciation of regional currencies including the Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania shillings.