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Ngugi Kiuna: Tycoon Who Founded Company That Was Heineken Beer Sole Distributor in Kenya

Businessman Ngugi Kiuna PHOTO/Nation

Ngugi Kiuna is a renowned businessman popularly known as the owner of Maxam Limited, one of the largest alcoholic distribution companies in Kenya.

In 2019, the businessman made headlines after he was awarded millions of money in damages after Heineken International BV unfairly terminated a distribution agreement with his firm.

Ngugi has also invested in other sectors including in real estate, industrial gases, agriculture and banking sectors among others.

Here is his story as told by EAFeed.

Ngugi is the former Chairman of BOC Kenya, a gas manufacturing company that manufactures and markets industrial and medical gases.

The company was established in Mombasa in 1940, and it has had presence in among other cities, Nairobi, Kisumu, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.

BOC Kenya is the subsidiary of British Oxygen Company, the largest provider of industrial, medical and special gases in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In July 2023, Billionares Africa reported that Ngugi acquired an additional stake in a move to solidify his position as a serial investor in the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

Ngugi purchased an additional 93,826 shares in BOC Kenya, amounting to a value of Ksh 7.2 million, according to the publication.

Following the acquisition, his stake in the gas manufacturer was elevated from 8.08 percent to 8.56 percent, following his previous purchase of 93,000 ordinary shares worth Ksh 6.9 million in 2022.

On the other hand, Ngugi is also the founder and owner of Maxam Kenya Limited, a popular distribution company established in 2006.

Maxam Kenya Limited was known as the sole distributor of Heineken beer in Kenya, recording annual revenue of up to Ksh 3.5 billion.

In 2019, the High Court of Kenya awarded Maxam Kenya Limited Ksh 1.79 billion in damages after Heineken International BV unfairly terminated their distribution agreement.

In an order, the High Court also reinstated the distribution agreement that the beer company cancelled.

At this point, Heineken International BV had been supplying its beer in Kenya through Maxam Limited, a company that has held the franchise since 2007.

A formal exclusive distribution agreement for Kenya was signed between the two companies in 2013 and Maxam Kenya Limited invested significantly in developing distribution infrastructure and in marketing the Heineken brand in Kenya.

However, in 2016, Heineken terminated the contract, with Maxam Kenya Limited accusing Heineken of sidestepping them and going ahead to acquire Maxam’s key account customers as sub distributors in spite of an order stopping the same.

The company also accused Heineken of offering lower prices to other distributors while approving higher prices to them on the same products to reduce their approved margins.

In the ruling, Justice James Makau said Maxam Kenya Limited convincingly proved that Heineken International BV acted in breach of their contract.

The judge argued that after Heineken terminated its agreement with Maxam Kenya Limited, the company lost significant business and in order to compensate them for the loss, he directed Heineken International BV to pay Maxam Ksh 1.79 billion in special damages.

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