Home Business Safaricom confirms it acquired 18.96% stake in Circle Gas for $22M

Safaricom confirms it acquired 18.96% stake in Circle Gas for $22M

by Sam Wakoba
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In January, Safaricom announced a $22 million (£17m) investment into UK firm Circle Gas which runs M-Gas in Kenya and Tanzania to launch prepaid gas service for Kenyan households.

According to Michael Joseph, outgoing CEO, Safaricom, the investment into Circle Gas would empower millions of Kenyans with affordable access to clean cooking gas as M-Gas would provide its customers with an M-Gas setup which will include a gas cylinder and a 2-burner gas cooker at no upfront cost. Normally, a gas cylinder and gas cooker cost way above KES 6,000 and KES 2,000 respectively and refill cost around KES 2,000 per cylinder.

“In the year, Safaricom acquired 18.96% stake in Circle Gas. The primary goal of Circle Gas is to provide clean cooking to low-income earners through M-Gas,” the firm announced this week during the presentation of its financial year results for the year ending March 2020.

Circle Gas is among subsidiaries, associates, and joint ventures that Safaricom has supported in its just-ended financial year.

Other subsidiaries include DigiFarm and M-PESA Global Services Ltd. DigiFarm was set up as a stand-alone entity and is 100% owned by Safaricom. The free-to-use mobile platform offers smallholder farmers access to a suite of information and financial services, including discounted products, customized information on farming best practices, and access to credit and other financial facilities.

M-PESA Global Services Ltd, is a 50-50 JV between Safaricom and Vodacom which was formed with the completion of the acquisition of the M-PESA brand from Vodafone to enhance M-PESA’s growth in Africa.

Circle Gas in the same month acquired Tanzania’s KopaGas for a cash deal worth $25 million to it gain access to pay-as-you-go (PAYG) technology, advanced manufacturing capabilities and positions in key LPG markets in East Africa which then led to its Kenyan launch. About 900 million people, or 70% of the population of sub Saharan Africa have not yet transitioned to clean and modern cooking fuels such as LPG.

With the KopaGas acquisition, Circle Gas can design, manufacture and deploy Internet of Things (IoT) devices and software that enable customers to pay and consume small amounts of gas at a time using mobile wallets such as M-Pesa, whilst providing timely and granular usage and payment information.

Circle Gas also saw this as an opportunity to facilitate energy access for the mass market via pay-as-you-go technology and acquired KopaGas to help it accelerate its East Africa market penetration. KopaGas’s proprietary technology and team were worth USD 25 million, an acquisition thought to be the largest-ever pure private equity investment in the clean cooking technology sector.

“By working together with KopaGas and Safaricom we stand on the verge of creating a game-changing company that brings affordable, modern and convenient cooking fuel to millions of low-income households in Africa and beyond, whilst leading to material societal improvements in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly around energy access, health, gender, climate, and innovation,” said Volker Schultz, CEO Circle Gas.

With the KopaGas acquisition and the investment from Safaricom, Circle Gas is now eyeing to revolutionise energy access for clean cooking in Africa. It’s low-cost LPG fuel for clean cooking to low-income households by using innovative smart metering and advanced distribution logistics, displaces the use of harmful and dirty charcoal and kerosene in the home. The UK firm has operational units in Kenya, Tanzania and product development and manufacturing in China.

KopaGas was on the other hand founded in 2014 by Andron Mendes and Dr Sebastian Rodriguez. It launched its GSM-enabled smart meter for LPG cylinders in 2015 in Dar es Salaam. It’s early investors and funders included Acumen Fund, Saisan Co Ltd., Hooge Raedt Social Venture B.V, DEG / KFW, GSMA, D-Prize, MIT’s D-Lab, Department for International Development (DfID) and GSMA Innovation Grant. Both co-founders will remain as key executives in the new venture.

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