Capital Markets

China firm acquires majority stake in Kajiado-based lender

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The Central bank of Kenya, Nairobi on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

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Summary

  • The CBK announced on Tuesday that Mr Robin Duan Wei is taking up an 85 percent stake in the Kajiado based microlender through his company Wakanda Network Limited, which is based in the UK.
  • CBK said Mr Wei is a successful Chinese entrepreneur whose digital advertising company is listed at the Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited with a market capitalisation of $11.7 billion (Sh1.32 trillion).

A Chinese investor who owns mobile digital lenders across Kenya and Nigeria has received Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) approval to buy the majority stake in Choice Microfinance Bank Limited (Choice MFB).

The CBK announced on Tuesday that Mr Robin Duan Wei is taking up an 85 percent stake in the Kajiado based microlender through his company Wakanda Network Limited, which is based in the UK.

Mr Wei is the co-founder and chairman of Mobvista Inc, a Chinese technology firm whose subsidiary, MIB Network Limited, owns XGO Kenya Limited and Wakanda Credit Limited—the companies behind Kashway and iPesa mobile lending platforms.

CBK said Mr Wei is a successful Chinese entrepreneur whose digital advertising company is listed at the Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited with a market capitalisation of $11.7 billion (Sh1.32 trillion).

“CBK welcomes this transaction that is a critical component of Choice MFB’s transformation plan. It will strengthen Choice MFB and support the stability of the microfinance banking sector,” said the apex bank in a statement.

Choice MFB was granted a licence by CBK in May 2015 to carry out community microfinance banking business within Kajiado County, largely targeting the diaspora community. In 2019, the firm had told its shareholders that it was seeking a strategic investor to finance expansion and boost lending capacity.

Mr Wei’s firm is the second digital lender to take over a microfinance bank in recent months, following US-based digital lender Branch International which paid Sh230 million for 84.89 percent stake in Century Microfinance Bank.

The digital lenders were tipped to access banking licences through such purchases at a time when they have come under scrutiny over their lending and debt collection practices. But a new law signed last week will force them to get licences from CBK anyway, as well as end the predatory lending practices some have been practicing.

The CBK last year kicked out the unregulated digital lenders from using Credit Reference Bureaus (CRB) as part of an effort to rein in their negative use of the service.

This followed consumer complaints over breaches of data privacy, mishandling complaints, debt shaming and misuse of CRB to leverage loan recovery by threatening to list clients.

China which at one time had more than 5,000 peer-to-peer lenders in operation has also clamped down on nearly all of them forcing them to turn to other markets.

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