UPDATE 2-Kenya’s Safaricom names Ndegwa as chief after three-month search

(Adds analyst comment, biographical details on new CEO, writes through)

NAIROBI, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Kenya’s top telecoms operator Safaricom named Peter Ndegwa as chief executive, ending a three-month search for a leader following the death of long-time head Bob Collymore.

Ndegwa’s appointment becomes effective on April 1, 2020, said Safaricom which has been led by former chief executive Michael Joseph on an interim basis since Collymore’s death in July.

Ndegwa, a Kenyan, joins from brewer Diageo, where he has served since July 2018 as managing director of the company’s continental European business.

The Kenyan government, which owns 35% of Safaricom, had insisted that a local be picked to succeed Collymore.

Ndegwa is “the best qualified in terms of experience and maturity,” Joseph, a dual Kenyan-American national, told Reuters.

Safaricom controls about 62% of Kenya’s mobile market, with 30 million subscribers. The company, 35% owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and 5% by Britain’s Vodafone, grew under Collymore’s leadership into East Africa’s most profitable company with an $11 billion valuation.

Prior to his current role at Diageo, he served for three years as chief executive of Guinness Nigeria, Diageo’s largest single business in Africa in terms of turnover and employees.

Before that he was CEO of Diageo in Accra for nearly four years, according to his Linkedin profile.

He began his career in the drinks industry at Kenya’s East African Breweries (EABL), spending nearly eight years there and rising to the position of group finance director. The brewer is controlled by Diageo.

“Peter Ndegwa has done really well in the Diageo subsidiaries he has worked in,” said Eric Musau, head of research at Standard Investment Bank in Nairobi. “Our initial sense is that he has the reputation to manage a company the size of Safaricom.”Before joining EABL he worked for 11 years at accounting firm PwC. He has an MBA from the London Business School having studied economics at the University of Nairobi. (Reporting by Omar Mohammed Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri Editing by Maggie Fick and David Holmes)

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