CEOs cautiously optimistic as they carry unfinished business into 2020

NCBA Group managing director John Gachora. FILE PHOTO | NMG The chief executives of the nation’s biggest companies are cautiously optimistic about 2020, with 2019 having left their trays with unmet targets.

From banking to insurance and logistics to investment and aviation, the captains of the industry say 2019 produced challenges that rocked their business ships.

But they look forward to an improved 2020 hinged on recovery in private sector, clearance of pending bills by government and muted political noise amid the calls for a referendum.

NCBA Group managing director John Gachora says 2019 was a tough economic cycle for the country and for the region at large.

“We have all seen auction pages in newspapers getting longer and longer. It has not been easy,” said Mr Gachora in an interview.

But for NCBA, it was the year it wrapped up the merger of NIC group and Commercial Bank of Africa, giving it a new outfit to toast to. However, Mr Gachora says this meant concentrating on just retaining the business momentum to accommodate the legal and regulatory requirements as opposed to pursuing growth.

“We maintained same level of productivity and trends as in the previous year telling us that the merger process has not affected people’s productivity and the company’s output,” he said.

Despite the removal of interest rate caps, Mr Gachora does not expect a quick shift in lending owing to other problems in the economy.

“I think it is going to take a couple of years before we can say the bottom cycle has been reached and that we are starting to climb up,” said Mr Gachora.

Post-rate cap, banks could also face another legislation setback if President Uhuru Kenyatta assents to the Law of Contract (Amendment) Bill 2019 which was approved by Parliament in September 2018.

The Bill seeks to insulate guarantors by compelling banks to first exhaust all avenues of enforcing their security rights against a defaulter before turning to the guarantor to recover their money.In the insurance sector, players are looking forward to a recovery after another tumultuous year that almost mirrored 2018 when the sector’s earnings dipped to their lowest level in 12 years.Jubilee Insurance CEO Julius Kipngetich says 2019 was unexpectedly a tough year, made difficult especially on issues of government spending which hit small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs).“This saw SMEs non-performing loans shoot up even as they struggled to pay their insurance on time. Some of them downgraded […]

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