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State vows to keep off Collymore succession

Safaricom shop
A Safaricom shop in Nairobi: The telco is looking for a new CEO after the death of Bob Collymore. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has made a U-turn on the succession race at Safaricom #ticker:SCOM, saying it will work with whoever the telco’s board chooses to replace the late Bob Collymore.

The move is a departure from Kenyan officials’ position in the past that he should be succeeded by a local, a development that led to a delayed announcement of his replacement, according to a Reuters report at the time.

“Their (Safaricom) board will decide who they will have as the new CEO. There is no say from the government on who becomes CEO, once they (Safaricom) decides, then we will carry on with that person,” said ICT Secretary Joe Mucheru last week.

Safaricom, which is Kenya’s most profitable company, is seeking a successor to Mr Collymore who succumbed to cancer this month, just months after he agreed to stay on for an additional year to August 2020 in what was seen as a move to allow the government and Vodafone to negotiate an agreement.

Former CEO Michael Joseph is holding the position in an acting capacity.

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Mr Mucheru had last month said that the government’s wish was to have a Kenyan at the helm of the country’s most profitable company, fuelling fears that it may influence the choice of the next CEO.

“My wish is that a Kenyan gets [sic] the position, but we don’t control the business. We have appointed directors to run the business, it doesn’t mean that what the government wants is what it gets,” the CS said early this month.

Following Mr Collymore’s death, the board said it would give a way forward in under 24 hours. The delayed announcement of a new Safaricom chief is now headed to a month.

The government through the National Treasury holds a 35 percent stake in the giant telco while UK’s Vodafone and South Africa’s Vodacom Group jointly control a 40 percent stake.

The rest (25 percent) is held by retail and institutional investors listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

Under the leadership of Collymore who took over in 2010, Safaricom grew into East Africa’s most profitable company with more than Sh1.1 trillion valuation and introduced many sustainability programmes.

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