Uchumi Supermarkets of Kenya Mulls Expansion in Nigeria, Congo

Uchumi Supermarkets Ltd., Kenya’s only publicly traded retail chain, is considering starting operations in Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo after reorganizing its East African operations, Chief Executive Officer Julius Kipng’etich said.

“Congo is a very interesting country and we could possibly extend our footprint there,” Kipng’etich told shareholders Wednesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “Nigeria, their retail industry is not as well developed and that presents opportunities.”

The company could begin operations in Ethiopia in three years, Kipng’etich said. Uchumi may also re-enter neighboring Uganda and Tanzania, where it shut its loss-making businesses last year.

Kipng’etich took over at Uchumi in August, two months after the company’s board fired his predecessor, Jonathan Ciano, and Chief Financial Officer Chadwick Okumu and hired KPMG LLP to conduct a forensic audit amid “governance lapses.” Ciano and Okumu denied any wrongdoing. The company posted a full-year loss of 3.2 billion shillings ($31.2 million) in November.

Uchumi went into receivership in June 2006 with debts of 2.2 billion shillings. Ciano helped to bring Uchumi out of receivership by March 4, 2010, after it cleared its debts, enabling the company to resume trading on the Nairobi Securities Exchange on May 31, 2011.

Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are Sub-Saharan Africa’s three most-populous nations.

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