Oil marketer KenolKobil #ticker:KENO is embroiled in a Sh200 million dispute with nine former employees, who are questioning the status of their shares in the firm as it prepares to change ownership.
The former employees, who were assigned shares under the Employees Share Ownership Plan (ESOP), claim that KenolKobil had failed to factor in their shares in its negotiations with French oil firm Rubis Energie.
The former staff now want the High Court to suspend the planned takeover or in the minimum to preserve their shares pending determination of the suit.
They want the court “to grant an order of injunction restraining the respondents by themselves and/or agents from signing the takeover agreement and transfering shares between itself and Rubis Energie S.A.S or from entering into any similar arrangement with the said 3rd party (Rubis) pending reference of this matter to arbitration and conclusion of the arbitral proceedings.”
KenolKobil, through chief executive David Ohana, has asked the High Court to refer the matter to arbitration, arguing that the agreement it has with former employees provides for arbitration in case of a dispute.
The former employees are Elias Kamundi, Francis Mwangi, Mathew Mbugua, Rose Uku, Stephen Muthuma, Patrick Kondo, Ben Ndululu, Edward Orete and Patrick Ngugi.
They argue that at the time of exiting the firm they attempted to redeem their shares but were frustrated, and that it was only after the deal with Rubis was made public that they learnt that Mr Ohana’s shares were the only ones factored in the deal.
The former employees say they are aggrieved by KenolKobil’s decision to make public its intention to sell 100 percent shares to the French firm and yet they were not contacted nor was provision made for their shares.
KenolKobil, in its November 21 application, however asked the High Court to refer the matter to arbitration.
The parties have now entered consent that will see KenolKobil deposit Sh198.4 million in a joint account of the litigants’ lawyers, being the total value of the shares in dispute, to pave way for arbitration.
Rubis, which already owns 25 percent of KenolKobil said it will pay Sh23 a share for the remaining 75 percent stake, valuing the offer at Sh23.4 billion.
The French firm further noted that it had received commitment from Mr Ohana to acquire his 88 million shares.
KenolKobil is linked to late Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, whose exact shareholding in the company remains unclear because it was largely held in corporate and nominee entities.
Rubis is itself listed on France’s Euronext Paris stock exchange, and operates in 12 African countries in the downstream market.