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The Three Kenyan Billionaires Who Own Savannah Cement

The Athi-River-based Savannah Cement investment is owned by three Kenyan investors. The cement company was established in 2012 by two Kenyans and Chinese investors. Before the change of ownership, the Kenyan investors operated under Savannah Heights Limited associated with Donald Mwaura and John Gachanga while the Chinese held the rest of the shareholding under Wanho International Limited and ACME Wanji Investment Limited. 

Here is the story as told by WoK.

2015-2017 Changes

In 2015, Savannah’s chairman Peter Ndeta informed the founding members of the cement company, Mr Gachanga and Mr Ndeta, that he had bought the 60% shares from the two Chinese firms at a tune of Sh15 billion.

This move now placed the ownership of the cement manufacturing firm in the hands of Seruji Limited and Savannah Heights at 60% and 40% respectively. Under Seruji Ltd, billionaire Benson Ndeta owns 51% of the company alongside his 35% stake in Savannah Heights.

Also Read: The Billionaires Behind Lloyd Masika Limited Kenya

In 2017, the Competition Authority of Kenya announced in a press release its unconditional okay for Benson Ndeta’s acquisition of Savannah Cement as a whole after a transaction made him own 100% of Seruji limited thus placing his overall shares at 74% from 44.6%.

As the agency declined to reveal the transaction details, Mr. Ndeta said in an interview with  Business Daily, “The restructuring at the shareholder level will not see any changes at the management of the company nor its strategy.” 

Troubled Waters Between Suraji Limited and Savannah Heights

Donald Mwaura and John Gachanga, the other two investors owning Savannah Cement shares through Savannah Heights Limited challenged Mr. Ndeta’s Sh1.5 billion acquisition of Seruji Limited making him the overall company’s majority shareholder terming it illegal.

In court, Justice Alfred Mabeya said, “It is not in dispute that the interested party is a 40 percent shareholder in the respondent. It is also not disputed that the interested party was not served with the originating summons. That application was heard ex-parte. Surely the interested party was entitled to be heard in that application.” 

Chief Executive Officer Resignation

On 1st August 2020, the company’s founding Chief Executive Officer Ronald Ndegwa resigned under unclear circumstances. Mr. Ndegwa was appointed in 2013 and throughout his seven-year tenure had left an indelible mark in the firm.

He had steered the company through challenging times, spearheaded the formulation and implementation of long-term operational strategic plans, and notably was at the forefront of enhancing the firm’s environmental conservation commitments and enhancing market delivery.

In 2019, Mr. Ndegwa was voted Kenya’s “CEO of the Year” under the Company of the Year Awards for his efforts in revolutionizing Savannah Cement’s fortunes by the Kenya Institute of Management as reported by Smart Investor.

On his departure, the Savannah Cement board chairman Benson Ndeta said, “On behalf of the Board, I wish to pay tribute to Mr. Ndegwa, who has provided sound and strategic leadership for this business for the last six years and eight months. Undoubtedly, Mr. Ndegwa has left a remarkable footprint at the local and international levels and propelled the Savannah Cement brand to new horizons that were seemingly impenetrable.”

Benson Ndeta’s Board Dissolution

In May 2021, the Court of Appeal dissolved Benson Ndeta’s board where he served as board chair following the tussles and case raised by Donald Mwaura and John Gachanga who cumulatively own 40% of Savannah Cement Limited.

In the case presided over by judges William Ouko, Daniel Musinga, and Gatembu Kairu, the judges stated that “We agree with the appellants (Mwaura and Gachanga) that the appointment of interim directors by the learned judge amounted to usurping the powers of the shareholders of the 1st respondent (Savannah Cement). It follows, therefore, that the learned judge acted ultra vires.”

This followed a High Court move by Judge Farah Amin that appointed an interim board (excluding Donald Mwaura and John Gachanga) to manage Savannah Cement’s affairs although the Court of Appeal determined that it was not in the court’s jurisdiction to proceed as it did.

Benson Sande Ndeta

Benson Ndeta, an Architecture graduate from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology is the founder and director of Adventis Inhouse Africa having gained extensive experience at Emms Architects, Design Arch-International, and Ambience Interior Designs working on commercial office blocks, luxury apartments, port facilities, executive offices, and a shopping mall.

The serial entrepreneur is also the founder of Tran-Africa Power and Tron Logistics. Ndeta was also the board chair of East African Portland Cement Company between 2003 and 2008, and a director at Rapid Communications Limited from 2005 to date.

He is an avid lawn tennis player, a board member of  SOS Children’s Village covering the educational needs and care of over 15000 children, loves music and photography, and has a knack for rock-climbing.

Donald Mwaura and John Gachanga

Not much is known about the two billionaires apart from their ownership of Savannah Cement Limited.

Selling Savannah Cement

Barak Asset Recovery Limited is in the process of acquiring a majority stake at the troubled cement producer. According to media reports, the Mauritian registered firm is set to acquire 60 per cent stake in Savannah Cement.