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Seer of Sameer made Sh1.6bn in an hour

Naushad Merali is one man who has learnt to make hay while the sun shines. Born in 1951, he has grown to become one of the richest people in Africa. His business acumen has not gone unnoticed as Forbes Magazine listed him one of the 20 most powerful people in African business in 2012.

He is the chairman of Sameer Group. Together with his wife Zarin, they own 80 per cent of the shares. Sameer Group is a 15-company conglomerate with offshoots in financial services, construction, agriculture, energy and power, real estate and ICT.

It is estimated the group offers direct and indirect employment to more than 30,000 people.

Mr Merali is famous for making Sh1.6 billion profit in an hour in 2004 after he bought 60 per cent stake of Vivendi’s Kencell using a loan he received from Mo Ibrahim.

After acquiring the stake for Sh18.4 billion, he sold it in hours to Celtel for Sh20 billion. He beat MTN South Africa which was supposed to buy it at Sh18 billion.

His business history has been chequered and companies he has sold often end up doing well.

In 1983, he founded Equatorial Commercial Bank and a year later, led a group of investors in the buyout of Commercial Bank of Africa from the Bank of America. In 1985, he secured US Firestone stake in Firestone East Africa which today manufactures Yana Tyres. In 2000, he bought EA Cables from Delta Group for Sh104 million and sold it in 2004 to Transcentury for Sh230 million.

Mr Merali also owns five per cent of Airtel Kenya and serves as chairman of the board. He has majority shares at Sasini Tea and Coffee, H Young and Company and Eveready Holdings.