Kenyan edible oils billionaire Shah eyes expansion to Mozambique, Madagascar, Ethiopia to quadruple sales

Vimal Shah owns edible oils maker Bidco Africa, which trades in 16 countries regionally, and posted sales of $500 million last year.

BIDCO Africa, owned by Kenya’s wealthiest man, is targeting a quadrupling in sales by expanding regionally by the end of the decade to make the company a multibillion- dollar business.

The edible-oils manufacturer is considering building plants in Mozambique, Madagascar or Ethiopia by the end of the decade to add to existing operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Chief Executive Officer Vimal Shah said in an interview on April 21. 

The company trades in 16 African countries and posted sales of $500 million last year, half of that in Kenya, he said.

“We want to grow four-fold within the next five years,” Shah said at his office in Thika, 41 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of the capital, Nairobi. 

“We are targeting growth of $1 billion in Kenya alone within that period.”

Bidco is the biggest producer of edible oils in eastern and central Africa, and is a marketer of goods including animal feeds, hygiene products and detergents, it says on its website. 

The company is tapping increasing consumer spending on the continent, which is expected to grow 6% annually to $1 trillion by 2020, London-based Investec Asset Management Ltd. said in a report published in August.

Kenya attained lower-middle-income status—with a per capita gross national income of at least $1,045—and became the fifth-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa last year after the country’s statistics agency revised the method for calculating gross domestic product. 

The revision increased the size of the economy by a quarter. 

Growth is expected to accelerate to 6% this year from 5.4% last year, as it benefits from lower oil prices and increased spending on infrastructure projects, the World Bank said last month.

In November 2013, Forbes Africa ranked Shah, 54, as the 18th richest man in Africa and the wealthiest in Kenya with a personal wealth estimated at 138 billion shillings ($1.47 billion). 

The UK-based New Wealth Report last year ranked him as East Africa’s richest man with a net worth of about 144 billion shillings.

Shah said Bidco has no immediate plans to raise cash and will finance its expansion from existing resources. The company may consider a stock-market listing at a later date, he said.

“We are still seeing growth and we do not need to go public, but we could raise money using other options to expand the group’s business,” he said. In February 2014, Bidco sold $10 million of bonds in Tanzania at a yield of 7 percent.

“If it’s a loan that is required to expand the business, we shall go for it,” Shah said. “But we have completely ruled out going public for now.”

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