Kenya Airways in $250m cash call for expansion

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NAIROBI — Kenya Airways has priced its $250 million cash call at 14 shillings per share, a 32% discount to the shares’ average price over the last three months, it said on Monday.

The airline, which is 26% held by AirFrance KLM, wants to buy new planes with funds raised from the rights issue, in line with its plans to double its fleet in the next five years and a longer-term 10-year expansion drive.

Chief executive Titus Naikuini said the airline, one of Africa’s leading carriers, wanted to add 73 wide and narrow-bodied planes to its current fleet of 34, as well as introduce 60 new routes over 10 years.

“The plan is to expand in Africa and the Far East,” he told a news conference, referring to the airline’s strategy of connecting African travellers with the outside world through its Nairobi hub.

The main risks include the expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to allow for the handling of millions of new passengers, the timely delivery of new planes by manufacturers, a lack of experienced pilots and the huge capital outlay required, the airline said.

The issue was announced last year and will lead to the creation of 1,48 billion shares to be offered at a rate of 16 for every five held. It has already been 50% subscribed after both AirFrance KLM and the Kenyan government, which has a 23% stake, committed to take up their rights.

The minimum subscription required for the issue to go ahead is 70% and some analysts said the airline would struggle to persuade retail shareholders to take up their rights due to high interest rates in Kenya.

“It’s a good thing they have already captured about 50%, but by no means, it is not a simple task. High interest rates imply low liquidity in the market,” said John Kamunya, head of trading at Dyer & Blair.
The central bank raised rates sharply in the last quarter of 2011 to fight inflation and curb exchange rate volatility.

Shares of Kenya Airways edged down by five cents to 18,55 shillings after the pricing of the rights issue was announced.

“The offer price sounds like a good discount. It might excite people but ultimately, that will affect the share price in the long term due to dilution,” Kamunya said.

The issue is being led by CFC Stanbic as transaction adviser and Standard Investment Bank as the lead sponsoring broker.

Kenya Airways issued a profit warning on January 27, saying earnings for the year ending March 2012 would be at least 25% less than the previous year.

It blamed the eurozone debt crisis, political unrest in Egypt and escalating fuel prices.