Money Inc

Money never sleeps: Smoking out faceless billionaire John Kibunga Kimani

If you’re a Safaricom subscriber, a diehard drinker of EABL products, you make him filthy rich

Be careful what you wish for: Billionaire investor Dr John Kibunga Kimani’s eye-watering Sh2.3 billion stake in Kakuzi is even sweeter considering the agricultural economist and development specialist, was born and grew up in Kakuzi. He worked as a casual worker in its coffee and sisal plantations- as did his parents. He now sits on Kakuzi board as a non-executive director-and the reason his photo was uploaded!

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

@UndercoverKe

Reclusive billionaire Dr John Kibunga Kimani, one of Kenya’s Uber-rich serial investors, can get lost in a crowd of three. Until recently, there was no photo of him in the public domain. As is common with those loaded in real coin, he has no active social media presence. No Twitter or Instagram accounts. Yet, if you’re a Safaricom subscriber, a diehard drinker of EABL and KWAL products or prefer fueling at Total petrol stations, you make or  made him filthy rich.

So do those who buy locally assembled Isuzu vehicles, tenants at Two Rivers Mall and all parents and schools who buy books from Longhorn Publishers. Or get loans from Platinum Credit. Add too, the over 30 airlines serving meals to passengers from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi.

 Kibunga’s investments at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) kiss the Sh5 billion ceiling from significant stakes in East African Breweries and Centum which has quotable stakes in Isuzu East Africa, Longhorn, NAS Servair and Two Rivers Mall.

Kibunga holds shares worth Sh500 million in Safaricom making him the second largest individual shareholder

Mbele iko sawa: Kibunga Kimani was for years the second largest investor at Total Kenya before offloading three million shares at Sh80 million and vrooming out of the oil and gas marketer in 2019. He invested the windfall in agricultural firm, Kakuzi.

 His 16.2 million shares in Safaricom are worth Sh631 million making Kibunga the second largest individual shareholder- after sequestered high roller, Ramaben Patel.

By April 2020, Safaricom shares cost Sh20 a throw when lockdowns started, but found legs when the telco proved to be one of the few pandemic proof local companies: Share prices are now sprinting towards Sh40 meaning Kibunga has doubled his paper wealth in 10 months!

Kibunga is also the second largest individual investor at Kakuzi with a 32 percent stake valued at Sh2.3 billion and which has been ripening for over 30 years on the back of avocado, macadamia, tea, pineapple, commercial forestry, blueberry and livestock operations.  

Kibunga uses one investment strategy: buy big, hold long!

Up from poverty: Kibunga Kimani’s family were squatters in Kakuzi which sits on 39, 000 acres in Makuyu, Murang’a County. Kibunga now holds 32 percent of that bonanza which translates to owning 12, 480 acres of Kakuzi land minus other assets when time comes for asset stripping. Kakuzi is majority owned by British multinational Camellia Plc which is listed at the London Stock Exchange. He now sits on Kakuzi board and plans on dishing out 300, 000 of his own shares (trading at Sh370 a piece) to Kakuzi squatters!

Kibunga’s disposable income is creamed from international consultancies from the likes of the World Bank, JICA and Danida and then pumped into the NSE where he has relentlessly pursued the Kakuzi stock.

Kibunga, 73, uses one investment strategy: buy big, hold long: “I started buying Kakuzi shares when the original colonial settlers were the majority shareholders. Since then, I have consistently built the stake to the current level,” he wrote in a letter to the editor at Business Daily in 2018.

He continued: “My association with Kakuzi transcends being a shareholder. I was born in Kakuzi and so were my parents. Kakuzi is the only place I can call home as I grew up there. As a young boy, I worked in the company’s coffee and sisal plantations. Inevitably, Kakuzi influenced my education as well as career orientation.”

The stock market, as a cardinal creation of capitalism has been one ‘engine for the creation of endless wealth’

Spike that story: Kibunga Kimani is the largest individual shareholder at Nation Media Group but ‘Miss Rona’ pitched tent here in March last year and his Sh348 million stake took a hit as Nation Media shares nosed south from Sh100 in 2017 to the current Sh13 which is a severe, migraine inducing investment haircut!

Kibunga, who attended Makerere, Reading and the University of Sussex, has made the NSE his financial playground. British business writer Robert Heller in The Age of the Common Millionaire notes that the stock market, as a cardinal creation of capitalism has been one “engine for the creation of endless wealth, which might, in the extreme cases, be unsupported by any concrete foundation,” and Kibunga has been a blessed beneficiary.

But on the flip side, the stock market can be a bread of sorrow as the dipping fortunes for shareholders in Uchumi supermarkets, Mumias Sugar, Kenya Airways, Kenya Power, Eveready, Home Afrika, Trans-Century and Nation Media attest. Others also ‘crying in the toilet’ include those still holding shares in East African Cables, which at the height of rallying on steroids in 2006 shot to Sh600, but is now trading at below onion prices at Sh1.42!

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