East Africa

Bidco chief executive officer Vimal Shah ranked top of 25 super-rich in wealth report

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Kenya’s 25 richest people weathered last year’s strong political headwinds to increase their share of the country’s total individual wealth by a large margin, a newly released wealth report shows.

Consumer goods maker Bidco’s chief executive Vimal Shah tops the list of the super-rich with Sh144 billion ($1.7 billion) to his name or 36 per cent of the total Sh404 billion ($4.7 billion) worth of assets controlled by the club of 25.

This is the second survey to rank Mr Shah as Kenya’s richest individual after Forbes Africa’s 2013 list that ranked him as Africa’s 18th richest individual.

It was, however, not possible to ascertain how London-based New World Wealth group picked out Vimal as the principal beneficiary of the company that is owned by the Shah family.

Andrew Amoils, the senior analyst at New World Wealth, said Mr Shah stood out because he is the primary stock holder whose control of the wealth can only change in the event of inheritance or death.

“We only include wealth under primary stock holder. Wealth only passes on inheritance or divorce,” he said.

The list of superrich is made of 16 enterprising individuals such as Equity Bank chief executive James Mwangi, the bank’s chairman Peter Munga, industrialists Manu Chandaria and Chris Kirubi and Prandeep Paunrhana who are classified as centimillionaires with assets valued at between Sh860 million ($100 million) and Sh86 billion ($1 billion).

The 16 had an average wealth of (Sh1.7 billion ($204 million) compared to Sh100,620 ($1,170) for ordinary Kenyans.

Kenya’s super-rich have made their money from real estate and construction, a sector that has been booming in the past decade — helped by mega infrastructure developments that have opened up new locations of investment.

London-based New World Wealth has identified 105 Kenyans as ultra-rich individuals who control more than half of the country’s individually held wealth.

Nearly 20 per cent of this group has deep political ties underlining the strong link that exists between the country’s political and economic power.

Rich Kenyans have always held their wealth in secret, forming companies and nominee accounts to hold their stock market wealth.

This has resulted in sharp differences as to who is the country’s richest or the variation in the ranking of the super-rich produced by different surveys.

“We only include people as centimillionaires if we have a good idea of what they own,” said Mr Amoils.

Last year, Mr Chandaria was ranked as Kenya’s richest man by Nigerian publication Ventures Africa with a fortune of $1.65 billion (Sh142 billion).

Mr Chandaria, Mr Shah, and Mr Paurana of Athi River Mining have all built their wealth from businesses founded by their parents.

Mr Chandaria said he had the option of taking well-paying jobs after his studies in the US and India in 1951 but opted to take the risk of working with his father.

The industrialist who has recently become Kenya’s top most philanthropists chairs Comcraft Group, a company that produces steel and has a presence in more than 40 countries.

Vimal Shah and younger brother have managed Bidco, founded by their father in 1985, to become Kenya and East Africa’s leading consumer goods manufacturer that has over the years acquired a significant portion of Unilever’s edible oil businesses.

Mr Paunrana returned from New York University in 1984 to manage his father’s small agricultural lime producing company, turning it into a big cement maker in which he now holds an 18 per cent stake.

His stake in ARM Cement is currently worth Sh7.9 billion at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

The Nairobi bourse has proved to be a good grooming ground for Kenya’s billionaires having been the main source of wealth for Mr Mwangi and Mr Munga and Scangroup chief executive Bharat Thakrar who made billions with the listing of their companies at the bourse.

Equities accounted for the largest share of the wealth held by the ultra-rich in 2013.

The billionaires put 24.9 per cent of their total wealth in the bourse, 24.6 per cent in real estate and had another 20.3 per cent in different business interests.

Last year the NSE recorded an average rate of return on investment of 19 per cent, boosting the wealth of the ultra-rich.

In 2004 Mr Mwangi’s 7.32 per cent stake at Equity Building Society was valued at Sh900 million but that multiplied many times upon the company’s listing at the bourse where the value of his 4.88 per cent stake has since risen to Sh5.8 billion.

Mr Munga owns 0.42 per cent of the bank he also chairs and is also listed as a major shareholder in Britam Insurance Company worth Sh5.8 billion.

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