Swiss firm set to take over KenolKobil
Posted Tuesday, July 17 2012 at 23:30
- Foreign company linked to scam involving dumping of toxic oil waste in Côte d’Ivoire
Oil marketer KenolKobil will be part of the growing business empire of a Swiss commodities conglomerate linked to a toxic waste scandal, if the Sh25 billion buyout deal is finalised.
Trafigura, which was fined €1 million (Sh100 million) by a Dutch court in 2010 and has been at the centre of investigations for dumping hundreds of tonnes of toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire, acquired Puma Energy in 2000.
KenolKobil’s minority shareholders have been seeking to know the identity of the actual majority owners of Puma.
Puma Energy is the company that wants to buy a majority stake in KenolKobil in one of Kenya’s biggest corporate takeovers.
Conservative estimates put the transaction, which is shrouded in mystery, at Sh25 billion, and it could see the oil marketer get delisted and turned into a private company.
The top shareholders of the firm, associated with former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott who are at the centre of the deal, have gone to great lengths to conceal their identities, choosing to declare their interests through shell companies.
More than 8,000 minority shareholders of the firm are, however, still groping in the dark.
Trafigura, which is based in the Netherlands, has interests in the oil sector, metals and minerals, storage as well as asset management, among other fields.
The purchase of KenolKobil through its Puma Energy subsidiary will now mark its entry into the retail and downstream operations in Kenya.
“Trafigura saw Puma Energy’s potential and acquired the business in 2000. Puma Energy developed rapidly in the ensuing years through organic growth and targeted acquisitions,” a publication by the Puma Energy International Corporate Affairs Department said. Puma Energy invested in Congo in 2002 after the country privatised its oil distribution sector.
Puma, which operates in over 20 countries mainly in Central America and Africa, has in the last decade been scouting for investments in midstream and downstream operations. Puma Energy also distributes refined oil products and is also in the wholesale and retail business.
Trafigura bought African assets of British oil multinational BP in 2010 in a bid to solidify its entry onto the continent.
Puma Energy has lined up at least seven major projects in Africa this year ranging from acquisitions to opening up of storage and service stations in different countries on the continent. Puma Energy needs clearance from regulatory authorities in each country before any successful takeover.
According to the latest update from KenolKobil on the deal, Puma Energy is expected to complete its due diligence on the company this month before continuing with negotiations.
“If the outcome of the due diligence and subsequent negotiations is satisfactory, then Puma Energy may proceed with a transaction subject to applicable regulatory approvals, compliance with the Capital Markets Act, and confirmation as to price,” KenolKobil managing director Jacob Segman said in a statement.
It has also emerged that Puma Energy is yet to make its application to the capital markets regulator, which refused to comment on the deal on grounds that it is yet to receive the takeover application.
“We want to stay away from commenting on the deal until we receive it. But we have the takeover and mergers regulations that should guide the transaction,” a Capital Markets Authority spokesperson told the Nation in an interview on Tuesday.
A UK newspaper, The Guardian, iublished a story in 2009 linking Trafigura to one of the worst pollution disasters in recent history. The newspaper said that Trafigura had offered to pay compensation to 31,000 West African victims in the toxic waste dumping scandal in Côte d’Ivoire, allegations the Swiss based company denied.