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Economy

Treasury to auction tycoons unclaimed Sh26bn shares

Former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka,
Former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, ex-Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, the late Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and late First Lady Lucy Kibaki are among the list of prominent Kenyans whose funds have helped swell the unclaimed assets fund. FILE PHOTOS | NMG 

Billionaire businessmen, former powerful government officials and prominent politicians are in the long list of individuals who risk losing Sh26 billion worth of shares that have been surrendered to the Treasury as idle assets.

The Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA) has given the owners of the over 800 million shares up to end of August to claim ownership of the stocks.

The authority has warned that it will sell the listed shares through the Nairobi Securities Exchange #ticker:NSE (NSE) and stocks in non-listed firms through public auction from September 1.

Many Kenyans, said the authority, remain disinterested in pursuing funds legally belonging to them or their families.

“Members of the public are notified that various institutions have reported over 800 million units of unclaimed shares among other assets,” the UFAA said in a public notice.

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“The authority wishes to advise apparent owners or beneficiaries to lodge claims. Shares not claimed as at August 31 may be sold by the authority (UFAA) as per the law.”

The shares targeted for sale are those whose owners have failed to participate in corporate actions for at least three years.

The actions include attending annual shareholder meetings, collection of dividends or taking up additional shares during stock splits.

Most of the assets, now in the custody of the UFAA, have been surrendered by public listed firms, insurance companies, banks, pension schemes, legal firms, telecoms operators and saccos, among others.

The unclaimed shares stood at 132.1 million, worth Sh9.36 billion, in 2016.

The law requires the holding company to search for the rightful owners of an asset before declaring it unclaimed and forwarding it to the UFAA.

A Business Daily review of the authority’s public database found a long list of prominent Kenyans whose funds have helped swell the fund.

Top among them is former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka whose fortune was picked from Standard Chartered Bank #ticker:SCBK, KCB #ticker:KCB and Co-operative Bank #ticker:COOP.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is at risk of losing his NCBA #ticker:NCBA, Housing Finance #ticker:HFC, East Africa Cables #ticker:CABL, East Africa Breweries #ticker:EABL, and Airtel Networks shares.

Also in the list is former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, whose KCB, Safaricom #ticker:SCOM and Cooperative Bank #ticker:COOP shares have been forwarded to the UFAA.

The former minister controls a vast business empire with interests in manufacturing, transport, banking and large-scale farming.

Longtime intelligence chief James Kanyotu, politician JM Kariuki and former Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange – since deceased -- are among prominent individuals whose dividends and shares are held at the agency following family feuds that have frozen the sharing of their properties.

UFAA trust fund

The families of former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki have also failed to claim some idle assets linked to their late matriarchs -- Lena Moi and Lucy Kibaki.

The UFAA has also received BAT #ticker:BAT shares of undisclosed value belonging to JM Kariuki as well as assets owned by the late Koinange, a one-time powerful Cabinet minister in the Jomo Kenyatta government.

Sameer Africa #ticker:FIRE, Standard Chartered Bank and Absa surrendered dividends and shares belonging to the late Kanyotu, who served founding President Jomo Kenyatta and later Mr Moi as head of intelligence for 27 years.

More than 11 years after the death of the spymaster, a court is yet to decide how his property estimated at Sh20 billion will be shared

The inheritance fights have denied beneficiaries a valid will or letters of administration required to gain authority over the assets.

Also in the list are Senator James Orengo, the late William Odongo Omamo (a former Cabinet minister and the father of Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo), the late Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and Barack Obama’s father.

Proceeds from the forced share sales will be remitted to the UFAA’s trust fund, which is allowed to invest the cash in government securities. The trust reckons that it will pay owners of the shares the value of the sold stock plus interest if they lay claim to the assets after the forced sales.

It is not clear whether the companies that have handed over assets belonging to the prominent families made an effort to comply with the law.

Most of the unclaimed assets are attributed to failure by the deceased to inform the beneficiaries of the assets besides the absence of a will.

Wealthy Kenyans are also shying away from claiming the billions of shillings in idle assets surrendered to the State.

The UFAA reckons it is struggling to re-unite the cash with their rightful owners or beneficiaries, claiming some are being turned off by the worth of assets under Treasury’s custody.

Unclaimed assets include money in bank accounts which have been dormant for more than five years, bankers cheques not cashed and contents in safe deposit boxes unclaimed for more than two years.

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