Competition agency approves Helios joint venture with Acorn

Mr Edward Kirathe, Acorn Group CEO. PHOTO |
Mr Edward Kirathe, Acorn Group CEO. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has approved the joint venture between private equity firm Helios Investment Partners and property development firm Acorn Group.

“It is notified for general information that the Competition Authority of Kenya has authorised the proposed joint venture between Helios and certain shareholders of Acorn,” the regulator said in a notice in the latest Kenya Gazette.

It was previously understood that the two firms were to form a 50:50 partnership but it is unclear whether that will remain in light of the statement that Helios deal is limited to a section of Acorn’s owners. The PE firm is expected to help fund projects undertaken together with the Acorn shareholders.

The London-based fund manages more than $3 billion (Sh303 billion) for high-net-worth clients including pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and foundations.

The Acorn deal adds to Helios’ portfolio in Kenya which includes Telkom Kenya, Wananchi Group and Vivo Energy (which trades in Kenya as Shell), Africa Oil and Interswitch.

Major player

Acorn is a major player in Kenya’s real estate sector, developing and managing properties for clients such as Coca-Cola East Africa, Deloitte East Africa and UAP Holdings. Its ongoing projects in Nairobi include Tiara Office Park, Mashiara Park, Pan Africa Life Assurance head office and Elono Plains.

Acorn also holds its own properties, with the company having operations in Uganda and South Sudan. The property developer had previously sold a 25 per cent stake to insurance firm Britam Holdings as the two firms agreed to partner on big-ticket real estate projects.

Britam was to fund the joint projects as part of its asset management business. The two parties however fell out, with the insurer selling its stake in Acorn. This paved the way for Acorn to team up with a new partner, leading to the deal with Helios.

This will be Helios’ entry in the local real estate market that has seen lucrative returns, especially in Nairobi and other major towns where demand for residential and commercial units has been driven by the middle class and expansion of multinationals.