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Uchumi CEO Jonathan Ciano/FILE

Kenya

Uchumi still hunting for a chairman

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 14 – Uchumi Supermarkets has said it is still in the process of hunting for an independent chairman even after failing to meet the Capital Markets Authority’s (CMA) August deadline to do so. 

Uchumi’s CEO Jonathan Ciano told Capital Business on Wednesday that they were currently interviewing people for the position although he declined to divulge when the top candidate would be appointed.

“The CMA has already given us clearance that we get out there and look for independent directors,” he said.

Although the chain is aware of the need to comply with the CMA condition, Ciano said they would not let that pressure rush the selection process.

This would enable them to pick a director that will add value in the long term and not shortchange the company.

Currently, Trade Permanent Secretary Abdulrazaq Ali is serving as Uchumi’s chairman.

Five months after re-admittance to the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE), Uchumi reported an 18 percent growth in profit for the 2010/2011 financial year, which Ciano attributes to focus and redefined business objectives.

“Sales actually yielded profit that is how we managed to grow from Sh433 million to Sh515 million profit before tax; it is actually growing faster in percentage terms than even the net turnover,” he said.

Sales revenue and gross profits grew by 12.8 percent and 10 percent respectively – a slight improvement from the previous financial year.

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Yet the sustained sales growth and boosted margins were not enough to positively affect the Sh1.47 profit per share, which Ciano said reflected trends at the NSE, where shares are generally declining due to external factors in the global economy.

Spending Sh300 million primarily on new branches, expansion into the region is high on Uchumi’s agenda for this financial year.

With two new branches in Uganda; one in Gulu set to open next month and in Kabalaga which is already operating, Ciano said Uganda’s low penetration in the retail market drew Uchumi’s investment.

Just recently, the supermarket chain signed on for another mall location in Kampala dubbed, Freedom City.

Other regional locations include the Dar-Quality Mall in Tanzania with plans to infiltrate Juba soon, which Ciano said will be Uchumi’s cannon into the future.

Domestically branches in Embakasi, Kisii, Kisumu, Ongata Rongai are all expected to launch later this year and early next year.

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