UK-based James Finlays set to buy JKIA cargo firm

UK agro-based firm James Finlays is set to conclude the buyout of a cargo ground handling firm operating at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), seeking a route to efficiently export its products.

The firm’s local subsidiary, Finlays Horticulture Kenya Limited, has been granted approval by the Competition Authority of Kenya to buy the assets of Skytrain Limited, which provides the essential service to cargo airlines at JKIA.

Finlays’ move to buy the cargo handling firm, however, comes at a time when it is scaling down its horticultural units in Kenya and Tanzania in order to focus on its tea business.

“Notice is giventhat business of providing ground handling services to cargo airlines at JKIA by Skytrain Limited will be transferred to Finlays Horticulture Kenya which will carry on the business under the name Finns Horticulture Kenya,” said Wang’ombe Kariuki, CAK director-general in a gazette notice.

Finlays’ local interests include flower farms in Mount Kenya, Naivasha and the Western Highlands (which serve its main markets of the UK, the US and Asia) and tea farms in Kericho.

The transfer, which is being handled by Iseme, Kamau and Maema Aocates, was scheduled to be concluded on Monday “subject to fulfilment of certain conditions precedent.”

Ground handling services is a critical part of an airline’s operations and it deals with the services between when the plane arrives at the terminal gate and when it departs on the next flight.

To ensure minimal turnaround time, speed and efficiency are key in this service.

This would explain Finlays’ bid to acquire a company doing the business as this gives them direct control over ground operations including packing and loading of its products for export.

“All money debts or liabilities due and owing by the transferrer in respect of the business up to the date of transfer as set out above shall be received and paid by the transferrer,” said Mr Kariuki.

Finlay’s horticulture business has been struggling over the past years with volumes remaining static especially after the 2008 post-election violence and the global financial crisis.

READ: Weak euro eats into horticulture earnings

This forced the company to scale down this section of its business and concentrate on the beverage sector instead.

Finlays, which also deals in property and aviation, in 2013 sold part of its flower business in Naivasha to Lamorna Limited for an undisclosed fee.