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Economy

Secret shareholder in digital migration company revealed

ICT Principal Secretary Joseph Tiampati (left) with CCK director-general  Francis Wangusi during a press conference on Monday 06/08/2013 to announce the switch-off from analogue broadcasting that will be done in phases. Photo/DIANA NGILA
ICT Principal Secretary Joseph Tiampati (left) with CCK director-general Francis Wangusi during a press conference in 2013 to announce the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

The Daily Nation has unearthed evidence of a secret Kenyan shareholder in the Chinese firm at the heart of the country’s digital migration row.

Kenyan registry records show that a company called Excel Magic International Ltd owns 6.7 per cent of the Pan Africa Network Group’s (PANG’s) issued shares in their local subsidiary PANG Kenya.

The company is registered in the British Virgin Islands, a popular tax secrecy jurisdiction, allowing its true owners to legally remain anonymous.

According to company registry records, however, Excel Magic International’s shareholding is described as “Kenyan”. It owns 2,500 of the 37,500 shares (a 6.7 per cent stake) in PANG, which was registered in Kenya on March 4, 2011.

The development has introduced a new twist to the controversy surrounding digital migration because, until recently, the Communications Authority of Kenya has been publicly stating PANG Kenya was a wholly-owned Chinese firm. The rest are held by the Chinese parent company.

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Observers will be quick to draw parallels with Mobitelea Ventures Ltd, the shadowy firm that was exposed in 2006 as a secret shareholder in Safaricom.

It emerged that, as Kenya was going through a transition similar to digital migration — opening up telecommunications by introducing mobile telephones — individuals in then President Daniel arap Moi’s regime had negotiated with Vodafone Plc to acquire shares in Safaricom Ltd ahead of its public listing.

Vodafone Kenya Ltd itself was owned through nominee companies ‘owned’ by a firm of lawyers. The secret shareholding arrangements were seen as possible evidence of an indirect kickback to unidentified individuals.

To date, the true identities of the local owners of Mobitelea Ventures, who earned billions before eventually giving up their stake, are not known.

Excel Magic International gives its address as OMC Chambers, Wickhams, Road Town, Tortola. The Carribean island of Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands, while Road Town is its largest town.

Records obtained by the Daily Nation show PANG was registered with a nominal capital of Sh4.1 million, with 500,000 authorised shares valued at Sh82 each.

PANG’s directors are named as Mr Xinxing Pang and Mr Shang Junqi.

The company was the second to be awarded a Broadcast Signal Distributor licence by the communications regulator in October 2011, a few months after registration. Earlier, the government had given a licence to Signet Kenya, a company it jointly owns with state broadcaster KBC.

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