Airtel Kenya splits mobile money after selling minority stake

An Airtel shop in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Telecommunications firm Airtel Networks Kenya has split its mobile money business into a separately run entity known as Airtel Money Kenya Limited following the entry of minority shareholders into the venture.

The new entity took over the operations of the firm’s money services effective Thursday.

“We wish to inform … the general public that to better serve our customers, we have separated and transferred the Airtel Money Business from Airtel Networks Kenya Limited to Airtel Money Kenya Limited,” the company said in a notice.

“Following this business separation, Airtel Money Kenya Limited will take over and continue the provision of the Airtel Money Services, in collaboration with the licensed telecommunications network of Airtel Networks Kenya Limited.”

The company added that the two businesses will continue to share customer data and that continued use of the mobile money service will be deemed as proof of a customer’s acceptance of that fact.

The spinoff comes after London-listed Airtel Africa Plc sold a 25.77 percent stake in its local mobile money business as part of a continental deal that has seen it raise $550 million (Sh65.2 billion) from four institutional investors.

The multinational’s interest in Airtel Money Kenya Limited dropped to 74.23 percent in the year ended March from 100 percent a year earlier.

Similar changes in ownership of the mobile money businesses were also witnessed in markets such as Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Airtel Money Kenya will now be run and regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya as a standalone business but clients’ user experience is not expected to change.

Safaricom has also faced calls to separate its mobile money business. Legislative efforts to this end have, however, not succeeded. The company has said that it would prefer not to spin off the business, saying the service benefits from the existing synergies with other offerings including voice, SMS, and data.

Mobile money services in the country were rooted in the use of handheld devices and connection to telecoms infrastructure through a SIM card.

But new technologies including apps allow the rollout of such services without the need for the traditional telecoms infrastructure.

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