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SA firm buys Sh404m shares in Kenyan chain Big Square

Big Square has branches in Westlands, Karen, Lavington, Gigiri, Kilimani, Thika Road, Lang’ata, Ngong Road and Mombasa Road. file photo | nmg
Big Square has branches in Westlands, Karen, Lavington, Gigiri, Kilimani, Thika Road, Lang’ata, Ngong Road and Mombasa Road. file photo | nmg 

A South-African based private equity fund has invested Sh404 million ($4 million) to acquire an undisclosed stake in Kenyan fast food chain Big Square.
Uqalo says its investment will expand its footprint from the current nine stores to 30 over the next four years.

This anticipated expansion will see Big Square take the fight for customers to the likes of Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Domino’s Pizza who have increased their presence locally in recent years.

“We’re pleased to bring Uqalo into our business as a new partner so that we can bring our fresh, high quality and affordable dining-out experience to an increasing number of Kenyans,” said Morne Deetlefs, Big Square’s chief executive.

Big Square, which Mr Deetlefs founded in 2011, has branches in Westlands, Karen, Lavington, Gigiri, Kilimani, Thika Road, Lang’ata, Ngong Road and Mombasa Road.

Uqalo, which targets investments located in Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria, is primarily funded by Hong Kong-based supply chain and logistics conglomerate Fung Group.

According to the Uqalo’s website, its strategy is to acquire minority stakes by investing between Sh202m and Sh506m ($2m and $5m) in “mature businesses” through equity or convertible debt.

The Fund has a five-year investment target.  It currently owns a five per cent stake in business-to-business food supplier Twiga Foods, having invested separately in May 2016 and July 2017.

“We are delighted to support the team at Big Square in their expansion and the development of their offering to serve an ever increasing number of customers,” said Sebastian McKinlay, Uqalo’s East African representative.

Global brands have set up a local presence in recent years and are now expanding aggressively, attracted by an expanding middle class population.

The attractiveness of any location around the globe to fast-food chains is often seen as an acknowledgement of the rise in the number of people with high disposable incomes, a shift that investors in the outlets say has occurred in Kenya.

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