Billionaire Kirubi bets on KCB after he sells Safaricom

Businessman Chris Kirubi. The investor at the Nairobi Securities Exchange has sold his shares in Safaricom for about Sh38 million. FILE
Businessman Chris Kirubi. The investor at the Nairobi Securities Exchange has sold his shares in Safaricom for about Sh38 million. FILE 

Billionaire investor Chris Kirubi has cut his stake in Safaricom and made a fresh bet on KCB, earning millions of shillings in capital gains from the stock deals.

July regulatory filings show that Mr Kirubi disappeared from the list of top investors in Safaricom where he was previously ranked the sixth largest individual shareholder in May with 5.5 million shares.

The businessman’s exit from Safaricom earned him at least Sh38 million based on the telco’s average share price of Sh7, with his sixth spot now taken by another billionaire investor, Baloobhai Patel, who holds five million shares.

Mr Kirubi also bought 2.5 million KCB shares worth Sh115 million at the end of July, ranking him as the tenth-largest individual investor in the bank.

His latest purchase of KCB shares comes after he sold 3.6 million of the lender’s stock worth Sh156 million in the five months to May.

Mr Kirubi attributed the sell-offs to profit taking after the companies’ share prices rallied in line with the NSE-20 Share Index that has gained about 15 per cent year-to-date.

“The share prices were good and I cashed in. The sales are not a reflection of my outlook for the companies,” Mr Kirubi said.

“I employ an active trading strategy at the NSE. It’s one of the fastest ways of making money at the market.”

KCB’s share price has gained 17 per cent over the past six months to trade at Sh45, helped by its recent announcement of an 18 per cent jump in net profit to Sh7.1 billion in the half year ended June.

The businessman, whose portfolio at the Nairobi bourse is worth more than Sh3 billion, said he would once again buy into the blue-chip firms like Safaricom once their stock prices fall from their current levels.

His single-biggest investment is in Centum where he has an 18.3 per cent stake valued at Sh2.8 billion. The businessman was one of the biggest beneficiaries of a recent bonus share issued by Nation Media Group (NMG) where he is a significant shareholder.

His 0.32 per cent stake in NMG is now worth Sh184.4 million, up from Sh153.7 million prior to the bonus share issue at the rate of one for every five held.

Mr Kirubi’s active portfolio management contrasts with that of fellow billionaire investor John Kibunga Kimani who has further accumulated Safaricom shares in line with his strategy of buying and holding stocks for the long-term.

Mr Kimani, whose NSE wealth is valued at over Sh2 billion, bought 1.1 million Safaricom shares worth Sh9 million in the two months to July. This has seen him emerge as the second largest individual investor in Safaricom with 9.9 million shares worth Sh80 million.

Safaricom’s share price has gained 11.7 per cent over the past six months to trade at Sh8, with the performance linked to rising investor confidence amid improved profitability.

The telco made a net profit of Sh17.5 billion in the year ended March, growing 38.8 per cent compared to Sh12.6 billion a year earlier as sales jumped 16.1 per cent to Sh124.2 billion.

Analysts remain bullish about Safaricom’s prospects going forward, attributing their confidence to the firm’s dominant position in the voice business and its diversification into the data market.

Mr Kimani is among several low-profile billionaires who have accumulated shares at the NSE over the years, a move that has seen them benefit from large dividend payouts, share splits, bonus share issues and a long-term price rally.

The businessman holds millions of shares in East African Breweries Limited, Kakuzi and Total Kenya where he is the second-largest investor after French firm Total Outre-Mer.

Other low-key billionaires whose long-term stock market strategy mirrors that of Mr Kimani include Baloobhai Patel (a director of Pan Africa Insurance) and Kanaksinh Karsandas, and Sandip Babla.