How Uhuru’s Billionaire Friend Made Ksh1.6 Billion Under an Hour

File photo of First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Sameer Africa founder Naushad Merali

Sameer Africa founder Nashaud Merali has established himself as one of the wealthiest persons in Kenya and is known for his shrewd business style and wits.

He is revered for his savvy business dealings, and him making Ksh1.6 billion (then $20 million) in one hour attests to his shrewdness.

By the year 2000, Merali had a 40 percent stake in telecommunications company Kencell (now Airtel). The other 60 per cent was owned by French Firm Vivendi.

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In 2004 Vivendi wanted out, and Merali saw an opportunity to pull one of the greatest deals in Kenya’s corporate history.

Using his pre-emptual rights as a shareholder, Merali convinced Vivendi to sell him their 60 percent stake in Kencell.

Negotiations of the buyout were conducted in Merali’s office at Sameer Africa headquarters, then located at Riverside Drive, Nairobi.

As the negotiations continued between Merali and Vivendi, owner of Celtel Kenya, billionaire Mo Ibrahim was waiting in the next room wanting to buy into Kencell.

Meralli got Vivendi to sell him their shares for $230 million. He walked into the next room an hour later and sold it to Celtel for $250 million, making a Ksh 1.6 billion profit.

In 2008, Merali sold half of his 40% stake to Zain and later reduced it to 5%, selling his 15% stake in 2009.

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In 2010, Zain wound up operations in Africa selling its interests to India’s Bharti Airtel.

Merali became the owner of the Kenya Data Networks through his investment vehicle Sameer ICT, which in 2008 owned 96% of the firm.

Merali is also the chairman of Sasini Limited.

Forbes Magazine in 2014 listed Merali as one of the wealthiest men on the continent with a net worth upwards of $550 million.

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