Friday, April 4, 2008

SA microlender Blue returns to Kenya

From BusinessDay-SA

SOUTH African micro financier Blue Financial Services is resuming operations in Kenya since normality returned to the conflict-ridden country, and might invest in Zimbabwe once the political situation there has stabilized.

CEO Dave van Niekerk said yesterday in Kenya the company had pledged to invest another R60m in Kenya.

Blue suspended operations in Kenya in January after post-election violence that claimed the lives of more than 1000 people, including one of the company’s managers in the Kenyan province of Eldoret.

Van Niekerk met Kenyan prime minister-designate Raila Odinga in Nairobi on Tuesday and was assured of the government’s commitment to rebuilding the economy .

“Government is supporting the micro lending industry and sees it as a key strategy in re-establishing Kenya as a stable and developing economy,” Van Niekerk said.

Blue, which is listed on the JSE, is Africa’s biggest microlender, with operations in 10 countries.

“Given the political stability and government’s commitment to economic reform, we are ramping up Blue’s investment and product offerings in the country.

“Kenya has always been a significant investment opportunity for us and will definitely form part of an initial R80m we have earmarked for investment in the region,” he said.

Blue acquired Kenyan microlender Jaribu Credit Traders’ debtors book and its 13-branch infrastructure in November.

Van Niekerk said his company planned to invest R65m in Tanzania and Uganda this year as it moved to expand its operations into east Africa.

Blue had received regulatory approvals to operate in Cameroon and Rwanda within the next two months.

The company, with a loan book of R400m, was considering expanding its operations in Angola, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and was also considering acquisitions in southern Africa to boost its revenue.

Blue would dual list in Zambia and Botswana This month to give the local population a chance to buy its shares, Van Niekerk said.

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