John Ngumi: From Cutting Deals With Trillions, Going Broke And Taking Over As Safaricom PLC Chair

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John Ngumii: From Cutting Deals With Trillions, Going Broke And Taking Over As Safaricom PLC Chair
John Ngumii Photocredit/Courtesy

By Prudence Minayo

Mr. John Ngumi (Born in 1955) has vast experience in the corporate world and now takes over as Safaricom PLC Chair from Michael Joseph. According to a local daily, he is said to have brokered deals worth over Sh1 trillion. He has been in the financial world for more than three decades and experienced his fair share of ups and downs. 

On 7th August 2020, he was appointed chairman of ICDC (Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation). This is the second time he worked at ICDC-he previously worked in the same institution as a director before being replaced. 

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He has also served in various positions including: 

  • Chairman of Kenya Pipeline Corporation board.
  • Chairman of board of Konza Technopolis Development Authority 
  • Inaugural director of the board of Communications Commission of Kenya, currently called Communications Authority of Kenya 

Education

Mr. Ngumi is a graduate of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from St. Peter’s College, Oxford University, United Kingdom. He graduated with First Class Honors. 

Career 

After completing his studies, he started his career in the banking industry as a trainee at Westminster Bank, London for three years. He came back to Kenya in 1983 when there was a revolution in the country’s banking industry which had previously been a preserve for the British. 

At the time Kenya Commercial Bank (CBK), previously named Grindlays, was the largest bank and operated as a merchant bank. He approached the financial institution for a job and was among the team that raised funds for the Kiambere dam. 

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In 1985, John Ngumi: was employed by Citibank as the head of its then new Capital Markets Unit. Four years later, he joined Barclays Bank. Their major focus at Barclays was financing real estates. They helped finance Unga House, Nation Center, Nairobi Shopping mall and The Windsor. 

Loita Capital Partners Limited

In 1994, he partnered with others and started Loita Capital Partners Group, which was made up of Loita Asset Management (LAM) and Loita Capital Partners Limited. Their aim was to create the first indigenous investment bank. Their dream came to pass and Loita became a force to reckon with. They built a name for themselves and even played an integral part in placing the first ever bond at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). They were also appointed to work with the Central Bank of Kenya in structuring a Treasury Bond Program. 

Everything was going well for Loita Capital when it all came tumbling down. Their costs and revenues failed to match since expenditure was very high. They lacked the capital to fund their lavish lifestyles. They were living the high life and champagne, expensive whiskies, expensive art collections, and cigars were a part of their lifestyle. They worked as hard as they partied. 

By this time, LAM had grown into the second biggest fund manager in Kenya, second to Barclays Trust. Their assets under management were valued at Sh3.8 billion. They managed industrial and commercial development corporation pension funds. LAM raised capital for the Sh1 billion Acacia Fund, the first ever venture capital fund in the country. The firm was also in charge of some of the first black empowerment deals in South Africa, and several deals related to trade finance in Zimbabwe and Malawi. They were also behind the first weekly investment analysis in Kenya. 

LAM also offered financial advice to various top corporates including: Housing Finance Company of Kenya (HFCK)- it is currently referred to as Housing Finance (HF), Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), and East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL). 

On the other hand, Loita Capital was an investment bank that specialized in raising capital for firms. 

While the firm will go down in history for having shaped the country’s financial markets, it went under. They racked up huge debts and Mr. Ngumi lost a lot. Big dailies advertised the auctioning his properties and he experienced massive losses. 

“I spent between 1997 and 2000 desperately trying to keep my financial head above water,” he told the Financial Standard. 

Employment

After the failure, he went back to employment. John Ngumi was employed at Citibank in the Corporate Finance Unit. His boss was a person he had employed a decade prior, which was a very humbling experience. 

In 2001, he was the joint lead manager and arranger of Safaricom’s Sh4 billion bond. This bond was the biggest corporate bond issue at the time. He moved to Stanbic Bank followed by Standard Bank Africa where he continued to build his reputation in making Multi-million deals. He also became the only private representative contracted by the National Treasury to help shape the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA). 

He has since worked as a top member in various top corporates and parastatals. 

He has been appointed the new Safaricom PLC Director and board chairman, effective 1st August 2022.

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