These days, Kenyans have a fever, and apparently the only prescription is to purchase stock. It all came to a head last month when the government sold a 30% stake in Kengen, the hydroelectric and geothermal energy utility. To say it was a hot issue would be an understatement. Literally hundreds of thousands of prospective investors jammed stockbrokers' offices to open accounts and purchase Kengen shares. People liquefied their assets – everything from taxis to sheep and chickens in an effort to become shareholders. When the three-week IPO period ended, stockbrokers held orders for $361 million worth of Kengen shares. But the government was only selling $110 million. So, prospective buyers are due a quarter billion dollar refund.Needless to say, there are a lot of disappointed investors in Nairobi, but none more so than institutional investors. Why? Because the government capped the number of shares awarded to each investor at 5000, and they drew no distinction between individual and institutional investors. In other words, Joe Taxi Driver will be awarded just as many shares as Mega-Bank Inc. To me, there's something beautiful about that. It means that the privatization will benefit more Kenyans more directly when Kengen share prices inevitably soar when they begin trading on May 17. It could take years for institutional investors to accumulate the large stakes to which they're accustomed.But let me go back to this gigantic refund. It is a sum roughly equal to four percent of the market capitalization of the entire Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE). And while it may not have reached its intended destination (Kengen), you can bet that a good portion of it will be invested elsewhere on the NSE. So, the 3-year bull market in Kenyan stocks looks alive and well.
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