New evidence has emerged showing that a local company registered in a tax haven, the British Virgin Islands, by the name Excel Magic International Ltd, owns a substantial stake in the Chinese company the government intends to give rights and control over nearly 90 per cent of television audiences under the digital migration programme.
The new development has introduced a new twist to the raging controversy surrounding digital migration because until recently, the Communications Authority of Kenya has been publicly stating — and on record — that Pan Africa Network Group (Pang) Kenya was a wholly-owned Chinese company.
With Excel Magic International registered in the British Virgin Islands, where laws allow the owners of companies to conceal their identities, it is difficult to know the local partners of the Chinese company.
According to records from the company registry, Excel Magic International, whose shareholding is described as Kenyan, owns 2,500 shares of the 37,500 shares in Pang, which was registered in Kenya on March 4, 2011.
Observers will be quick to draw parallels with the shadowy company, Mobitelea Ventures Ltd, which came to the public limelight in 2006.
It emerged that, as the country was going through a transition similar to digital migration — opening up the telecommunications space by introducing mobile telephones — members of the inner core of the regime of former President Daniel arap Moi had secretly negotiated with the UK foreign investors, Vodafone Plc, to acquire shares in Safaricom Ltd, which was at that point publicly owned.
It also emerged that Vodafone Kenya Ltd itself was owned through nominee companies belonging to a firm of lawyers.
To date, the true identities of the local owners of Mobitelea Ventures are not known.
Excel Magic International gives its address as OMC Chambers, Wickhams Road Town, Tortola.
According to information obtained by Daily Nation, Pang was registered in 2011 with a nominal capital of Sh4.1 million, with 500,000 shares valued at Sh82 each.
The company was the second to be awarded the Broadcast Signal Distributor licence by the communications regulator in October 2011, a few months after its registration.
Earlier, the government had given a licence to Signet Kenya, a company it jointly owns with state broadcaster KBC.
According to the CA, it has licensed 40 free-to-air channels on the digital platforms, with over 30 on Signet and eight on Pang.
Among the Pang shareholders is StarTimes China-Africa Digital Television Media Company, with 37,500 shares and Excel Magic International with its 2,500.
The company directors are named as Mr Xinxing Pang and Mr Shang Junqi, both based in Nairobi.
According to the company’s website, Pang has already begun the construction and rollout of its infrastructure.
So far, it has 13 clients on its platform, including GBS and Sayare.
The company says it has digital television projects in eight African countries.
Other countries have already questioned the capacity of StarTimes, the other shareholder of the company.
In Ghana for instance, the authorities last month announced that they had cancelled the digital migration deal with StarTimes.