Simon Ombori February 4, 2023 No Comments

The Business Savvy of Naushad Merali: Making Ksh1.6 Billion in One Hour

Naushad Merali, the founder of Sameer Africa, is renowned as one of the wealthiest individuals in Kenya. He has earned his fortune through a combination of his business acumen and tireless work ethic. His incredible ability to make Ksh1.6 billion (or $20 million) in just one hour is a testament to his sharpness in the business world.

By 2000, Merali held a 40% stake in Kencell, a telecommunications company (now Airtel), with the remaining shares being owned by the French company, Vivendi. In 2004, when Vivendi decided to exit the company, Merali saw an opportunity to make a major impact on Kenya’s corporate history. He used his rights as a shareholder to convince Vivendi to sell him their 60% stake in Kencell for $230 million.

The negotiations took place at the Sameer Africa headquarters located in Nairobi’s Riverside Drive. Interestingly, as these talks were taking place, billionaire Mo Ibrahim, owner of Celtel Kenya, who also wanted to purchase Kencell, was waiting in the next room. Merali was able to strike a deal with Vivendi, and then promptly walked into the next room and sold the shares to Ibrahim for $250 million, making a clean $20M(~KSH.1.6B), all within the span of an hour.

In 2008, Merali sold half of his 40% stake to Zain and later reduced it to 5%. He sold his remaining 15% stake in 2009. In 2010, Zain ended its operations in Africa, selling its interests to Bharti Airtel from India. Through his investment vehicle, Sameer ICT, Merali became the owner of Kenya Data Networks and also holds the position of chairman at Sasini Limited.

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

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