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Uchumi back on the bourse next week

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23 – Uchumi shares will resume trading at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) on Tuesday next week, five years after the retail chain was suspended from the bourse.

This was after it was placed under receivership over its failure to pay debts worth Sh957 million owed to the Kenya Commercial Bank and the PTA Bank.

"We celebrate a major milestone – the war has been won- history made – as Uchumi Supermarkets Ltd is re-listed in the NSE. The ringing of the bell ceremony is planned for May 31 at the NSE trading floor at Nation Centre," a statement from the chain said.

This will be great news to the estimated 19,000 shareholders who have had to endure uncertainty over their return to the bourse as well as years without dividends from their investments. The announcement means that they will be able to unlock the value of their investments.

Uchumi received a lifeline in 2006 when the government injected Sh675 million to rescue it from collapse. Coupled with monies raised from its suppliers and debenture holders, the shareholders\’ fund has grown from a deficit of Sh1 billion to a positive of Sh1.5 billion.

Over the years, the supermarket chain has also returned on the profitability path and even managed to pays its debtors.

"We acknowledge that this great achievement could never have been possible without the goodwill, efforts and support of Uchumi stakeholders-GOK (the government of Kenya), customers, shareholders, suppliers, Uchumi staff and all other Uchumi supporters especially the media. The support from you is invaluable," the statement further said.

During the period, the chain saw its shares increase from 180 million to 266 million as a result of the conversion of debentures into equity.

Uchumi was lifted out of receivership in March 2010 and in August of the same year, announced a 154.7 percent rise in its consolidated pre-tax profit to Sh433 million for the financial year ended June 30 2010; a performance it expected to replicate in 2011.

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In recognition of the fact that the firm\’s performance has stabilised, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) last month, approved the re-listing but attached several conditionalities that needed to have been met before shares can begin trading.

One of the conditions was that Uchumi need to appoint an independent chairman within four months of the lifting of the suspension. This topic might be a subject of debate during an investors\’ briefing that is slated for Wednesday, May 25 and if picked, the new chairperson is likely to be revealed then.

Some of its shareholders have also been banned from disposing of their shares for a period of one year from the re-listing on NSE.

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