Kenyan court suspends plan to privatise more state-owned firms

NAIROBI (Reuters) – A Kenyan court on Monday suspended a government plan to start a fresh privatisation drive under a modified law while it hears a challenge that an opposition party has brought against the sales.

In late November the finance ministry said it would start the process of offering to sell its shareholding in 11 firms, including an oil pipeline, a textbook publisher and agribusiness firms.

The 11 companies are among more than 35 companies that are lined up for sale, partly to help the government raise revenue in the face of growing debt repayments.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement party went to court to contest the decision within days of the announcement.

High Court Judge Chacha Mwita said the court had suspended any planned sale using the amended law, known as Privatisation Act 2023, until Feb. 6.

Officials at the finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kenya last privatised a state-owned company in 2008 through an initial public offering of a 25% stake in telecommunications firm Safaricom.

The government revised the law governing the sale of state companies in October to eliminate the bureaucracy that had made the process grind to a halt, the president said in late November.

However critics say the legal change took away parliament’s oversight of the privatisation process.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa; editing by Christina Fincher)