Mombasa-based gas seller Proto Energy has snapped up a rival cooking gas company for an undisclosed sum in the latest dealers’ race for a larger market share of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector, the Kenyan business Daily reports.
Proto Energy, associated with billionaire businessman Mohammed Jaffer, is the maker of Pro Gas and has now received regulatory approval to buy out Solutions East Africa, whose LPG products trade as SeaGas.
“The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) authorises the proposed acquisition…of business and assets of Solutions East Africa by Proto Energy Limited,” said director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki in a gazette notice.
The buyout is expected to see the Mombasa business mogul firm its grip in the lucrative cooking gas market.
Multi-billionaire Jaffer is the founder of the MJ Group, East Africa’s largest provider of clearing and forwarding services. His GBHL owns a grain terminal that specializes in the discharge and handling of bulk grain cargo at the Port of Mombasa. For long, he’s been a monopolist and competitors crying foul for being undermined as he uses his influence in the system to tune things to his favour.
In 2019, according to the National Land Commission, Jaffer’s Grainbulk Handlers Limited had irregularly grabbed up to 43 acres of the Indian Ocean within Kibarani, disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen and negatively impacting the ecosystem of the region.
However, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the National Land Commission to revoke Kibarani dumpsite land allocation to a “private developer” which was Grainbulk Handlers Ltd (GBHL).
GBHL was listed by NLC as among politically well-connected tycoons who have encroached the sea and put up multibillion shillings properties including container freight stations and offices near the port of Mombasa.
Jaffer controversially built his business empire by leveraging on political patronage and was at one time the main benefactor of ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga when he served as Prime Minister.
According to sources, as soon as Jaffer fell out with Raila he struck up a new relationship with DP William Ruto. Jaffer promised the DP political support in the exchange for political protection. He is the force behind the defection of most Coast Opposition MPs to Ruto’s Jubilee faction.
Jaffer’s influence is not limited to the executive arm of government. He is reputed to be close to high ranking judges in the judiciary including Court of Appeal judge Alnasir Visram. So strong is his influence that one of his sons is employed at the Court of Appeal.
It is the reason Jaffer wins a majority of cases filed against him or any of his firms; be it a demand by KRA for back taxes or against Kenya Railways whose huge tracts of land around the port of Mombasa GBHL has irregularly used to secure bank loans amounting to a staggering Sh45 billion.
Jaffer’s arms are extensive, he also owns the famous Ajab flour and many others.
With Jaffer family monopolising the gas industry, fear is now that he can decide to create an artificial gas shortage that will have a great impact on the economy.