French PE fund buys stake in Naivas Supermarket

A French private equity fund, Amethis Finance, is set to acquire about a 30 percent stake in local retail chain Naivas Limited in a deal estimated to be worth billions of shilling. The transaction is set to further boost Kenya’s investment profile.

Sources familiar with the transaction told the Business Daily that talks to conclude the transaction are at an advanced stage with the parties now awaiting regulatory approval before making a formal announcement.

The investment follows the fund manager’s 2017 announcement when it sought Sh36 billion for investment in 11 countries including Kenya through Amethis Fund II investment vehicle. Amethis announced the final close of the Pan-African fund in July last year after raising Sh42 billion, which was Sh6 billion above the set target.

It was not immediately clear how much Amethis is set to inject into Naivas but historical data shows that the fund typically invests between Sh1.1 billion and Sh4.4 billion (Euro 10 million to 40 million) or more in target firms.

"Amethis Fund II follows the same investment strategy as Amethis Fund I by providing growth capital to African mid-cap champions, through investments with an average ticket size of EUR 10-40m, or more through co-investment," said Amethis after the close of the fund.

"Amethis will continue being an active shareholder, supporting entrepreneurs by giving them access to Amethis’ international network and external growth opportunities, while improving their efficiency and governance."

The Amethis fund II is a 10-year closed-end generalist private equity fund targeting mid-market companies in financial institutions, fast-moving consumer goods, healthcare, agribusiness, education, IT and telecommunications. Amethis’ pursuit of a minority stake in Naivas follows its earlier investments in Kenya through its Fund 1 including; printing and packaging firm Ramco Plexus in 2014, Confectionery Company KenAfric in 2016 and Chase Bank Kenya in 2013.

Amethis international expertise and experience has the potential to boost Naivas supermarket’s performance in an industry that has recently seen the entry of global brands like the French giant retailer, Carrefour as well as South Africa’s Game and Shoprite supermarkets, which are all backed financially by their parent firms. The deal also comes months after Quickmart and Tumaini merged following their acquisition by Sokoni Retail Kenya, a special purpose vehicle controlled by private equity firm Adenia Partners.

Its capital injection into Naivas will additionally enhance the retailer’s financial muscle necessary in accelerating the supermarket’s expansion plans in major towns across the country.

Last year, the retailer revealed to the Business Daily that its growth trajectory in the short term involved increasing the count of its branches in strategic towns across the country and scaling up the more capital-intensive food market concept it pioneered with a maiden branch at the Capital Centre on the Nairobi-Mombasa Road.

Fresh food stores

The retailer, which is implementing the food market idea in partnership with a local interior design firm Renova Limited, is preparing to officially launch the latest fresh food stores over the next few weeks.

The fresh food concept is a design strategy that allocates more space to fresh food categories and involves clever displays and sometimes supermarket architecture overhauls, to accommodate inventories that match evolving customer needs and improve customer experience. Naivas’s growth curve paints a contrasting picture of the local supermarket sector whose recent events have painted a grim picture of the industry.

It follows the death of the once giant supermarket chains such as Nakumatt and Uchumi. Audits have blamed vices such internal fraud, money laundering and mismanagement for the woes facing some retail chains in Kenya.

Naivas also recently acquired rival Nakumatt’s remaining six stores in a deal estimated to be over Sh400 million.

A 2019 report indicates that Kenya continued to attract more private equity investments with the country taking the lion’s share of capital committed to East Africa ahead of Uganda and Ethiopia, according to the report. According to the report, which tracked PE investments, Kenya accounted for 87 percent of the total $1.4 billion (Sh140 billion) investments made in the region in 2017 and 2018.

Deal volumes in Kenya in the review period stood at 61, accounting for 73 percent of total transactions.

The top deals in Kenya over the past two years include Actis’ $300 million (Sh30 billion) equity investment in Kipeto Energy in which it took an 88 percent stake and Moringa Fund also made a $100 million (Sh10 billion) equity investment in Asante Capital EPZ.