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The stone that the builders rejected; unknown Luhya tycoon shocks Asian billionaires in auction

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Just like next year’s elections, the auction process to bid for the leasing of Mumias Sugar Company was considered a forgone conclusion; a two-horse race between Mr. Raval of Devki Group, and Rai of the famous Rai family. So towering were the two Kenya-Asians that it was alleged Raval had Echesa in his pocket while Rai had Malala. It was just a matter of wait-and-see to find out who would clinch the auction. However, when crunch time came, the two were left dazed and heads spinning. An obscure local billionaire fronted a bid which more than doubled both their bids when put together.


Julius Mwale placed the highest bid of Sh27.6 billion for the leasing of Mumias Sugar, trouncing billionaire Rai family and steel tycoon Narendra Raval.


Tumaz and Tumaz enterprises, the company associated with the Mwale City investor topped the bids in its offer to run the troubled miller for 20 years.


Mr Raval, through his Devki Group, offered Sh8.4 billion while Rai under his West Kenya Sugar offered Sh3.5 billion.


According to the receiver-manager, Ponangipali Rao, a total of eight bidders submitted their bids to lease the troubled sugar factory.


The disclosure underlines months of the behind-the-scenes fight for the control of the once top miller by wealthy investors.


Under the leasing deal, the successful firm will run the plant and pay monthly fees to KCB —which is owed Sh545 million — for up to 15 years.


Mr Rao said the offers will be subjected to technical and financial evaluation ahead of picking the firm to lease Mumias Sugar.


“We opened the bids but technical and financial evaluation is pending before we declare the winner,” said the receiver.


Mumias, which used to be Kenya’s leading producer at more than 250,000 tonnes a year, was beset by poor management, heavy debts and years of mounting losses, prompting its closure.


The miller was in September 2019 placed under receivership by KCB Group to protect its assets and maintain its operations.


Its shares were then suspended from the Nairobi bourse, and the leasing deal will be keenly watched by shareholders, including the State with a 20 percent stake, and creditors who are owed over Sh11 billion.


Mr Mwale has unveiled a multi-billion shilling package that will lead to the upgrade of the rundown production plant and attract farmers back to cane production.


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Ndungu Jay

Jay is a content creator at nairobitimes.co.ke with more than a year's experience in digital media. Armed with a Degree in Computer Science from Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology and an article already appeared on a US publication's website, he is exploring his chances of climbing up the Kenyan digital media ladder with a special focus on viral enriching content.
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