East Africa: Mauritius nudging Kenya for lead.

Position:Africa's Top 200 companies - Survey
 
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Despite Kenya's political turmoil our survey of the top 50 companies in the sub-region for 2008 shows the East African heavyweight still firmly on top of the regional rankings.

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East African Breweries has overtaken Barclays Bank Kenya at the top of the tree by a wide margin, with market capitalisation up from $1.3bn last year to $2bn this time around.

Kenyan firms fill 28 places in the table but this is down from 32 last year and there are even indications that Mauritian firms could seize top spot, although no other economies in the region are able to play anything other than a minor role in the rankings.

As our survey reflects market capitalisation over the most recent financial year, this year's results do not reflect the highly unexpected explosion that followed December's elections in Kenya.

The impact on investor confidence both within and outside the region may hit market values over the next couple of years but much depends both on how quickly the country's political elite come to a durable political settlement and on how rapidly much needed economic reforms can be introduced. A limp coalition of different factions is unlikely to be of much use on either count.

Although Kenya enjoyed relatively strong economic growth of 4-6% between 2004 and 2006, the reforms required to allow the country's established, successful companies to make the most of their lead in East Africa only trickled through.

Partly as a result, Mauritian firms continued to make inroads at the top end of our table. Although Mauritius Commercial Bank, New Mauritius Hotels and State Bank of Mauritius are still the only companies representing the island state in the top 10, they are now ranked third, fifth and sixth respectively, while none of them featured in the top six last year.

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The scale of the Mauritian growth is even more impressive with regard to their market capitalisations. They have all at least doubled in value in just 12 months, while Mauritius Commercial Bank has grown from $784m to $1.63bn over the year and could threaten the Kenyan top two in the very near future.

However, Tanzania and Uganda are still under represented in the top 50 in relation to the size of their economies and especially their large populations.

While Uganda had no firms listed in 2007, it has two banking and financial services companies this year, DFCU Group and Stanbic Bank Uganda. Tanzania remains stuck on three entrants: Tanzania...

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