Talks due over ownership of Portland

Talks due over ownership of Portland
Published: 10 August 2006

Major shareholders of East African Portland Cement Company are set to discuss its controversial ownership tomorrow. 
Speaking at a Press conference in which the Government denied being behind the turmoil at the cement firm, Trade and Industry minister Mukhisa Kituyi said the talks will focus on the shareholding of Lafarge, the French building material giant. 
The meeting comes days after the company’s board accepted the resignation of Mr Zakayo ole Mapelu as managing director replacing him with Mr Kagio Ndegwa. 
Mr Ndegwa was the general manager in charge of works. Five senior managers also quit. 
Lafarge, the majority owner of Bamburi, directly or indirectly holds 42 per cent at Portland. Bamburi holds 15 per cent in the only other cement firm, Athi River Mining. The multiple shareholding has over the years provoked suspicion of industry monopoly. 
Senior vice president of Lafarge Tony Hardley will attend the meeting. Dr Kituyi declined to comment on the Government expectations from the talks. 
The Treasury owns a 25 per cent stake in the company with National Social Security Fund (NSSF) owning 27 per cent. 
The balance of about six per cent is listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, which is against a rule that 25 per cent of a company has to be listed. Yesterday, Dr Kituyi said of the Lafarge dominance. "There is a prima facie case that this is an unhealthy situation," said Dr Kituyi. He, however, defended the company on possible conflict of interest at Portland, asserting that the company was main beneficiary of the recent good dividend run.