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James Ndegwa exits CMA after six years


Economy

James Ndegwa exits CMA after six years

Mr James Ndegwa, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) board chairman. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

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Summary

  • The tenure of billionaire businessman James Ndegwa at the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) has come to an end, bringing to a close his six-year term that was marked with conflict of interest accusations.
  • Mr Ndegwa, who was first appointed to head the board in April 2015 and reappointed on March 28, 2018, announced his exit at the regulator at a closed virtual CMA forum on Tuesday.

The tenure of billionaire businessman James Ndegwa at the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) has come to an end, bringing to a close his six-year term that was marked with conflict of interest accusations.

Mr Ndegwa, who was first appointed to head the board in April 2015 and reappointed on March 28, 2018, announced his exit at the regulator at a closed virtual CMA forum on Tuesday.

At the time of his exit, he was facing a court case by activist Okiya Omtatah challenging his reappointment on allegations of conflict of interest.

The activist also wanted CMA’s other board members, including John Birech, Freshia Waweru, George Moibi, Thomas Kibua, Christine Okoth and Peter Mungai removed from office for being appointed irregularly.

“This is my last week as the chairman of the authority’s board. It has been a great honour to serve in this position for two terms and to work with all the various stakeholders in the capital markets industry, our peer regulators, my colleagues on the board and the highly committed team at the authority,” he said.

Mr Ndegwa, son of former Central Bank of Kenya governor Phillip Ndegwa, and his brother Andrew Ndegwa have built a multibillion business empire including First Chartered Securities Ltd and ICEA Asset Management Ltd, NCBA Group and Unga Group spanning banking, milling, insurance and real estate.

Mr Ndegwa is the chairman of First Chartered Securities — the holding company for many of the firms associated with the late Philip Ndegwa family — and a director of several companies which he regulates.

Since Mr Ndegwa’s appointment in April 2015, businesses in which his family has an interest have initiated or completed several mergers and acquisitions that were approved by the regulator. These include the latest merger between the former NIC Group and CBA Group that created the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed NCBA Group, the country’s fourth-largest bank by assets.

The family in 2018 also backed Delaware-based conglomerate Seaboard’s failed bid to delist Unga Group from the NSE.

NAS Holdings, in which the family is a shareholder, had also offloaded the troubled Ennsvalley Bakery business to Unga Group for Sh535 million in two transactions between 2016 and 2017.

Former CMA chief executive Paul Muthaura, who oversaw the Ndegwas’ recent transactions, recently left the regulator to join ICEA Lion General Insurance –another company partly owned by the family— as the chief operating officer.

President Uhuru Kenyatta first tapped the publicity-shy Mr Ndegwa as CMA chairman, in April 2015 before renewing his mandate in 2018.

During his reign, the CMA sought to maintain financial market stability by strengthening corporate governance and other investor protection instruments as well as deepening the capital markets as among some of the strides made under his reign.

He has been instrumental in inquiring into governance issues at National Bank, KenolKobil, Real People and Imperial Bank as well as slapping errant players with multimillion fines and bans from heading listed entities.

He has also led the implementation of the CMA master plan that has seen the launch of new products including Real Estate Investment Trusts, Asset-Backed Securities, exchange-traded fund, derivatives markets, online forex trading, commodities market and green bonds.

The products have, however, faced low uptake, the bourse has witnessed listings drought, delistings and low performance by companies at the NSE that has left it reliant on only five top firms.

His tenure coincided with drought in fresh listing on the NSE and delisting of firms like KenolKobil, Rea Vipingo, Marshalls East Africa, Hutchings Biemer, A Baumanns and Atlas East Africa. Deacons, ARM Cement and Mumias Sugar also sunk into receivership during Mr Ndegwa’s tenure on the back of mounting debts.

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