Meet billionaire brothers vying for control of Mumias Sugar
The Rai family has turned Mumias Sugar into a financial battleground as the brothers prolong their family differences as they seek to take control of the struggling former giant sucker.
Their father, Talorchan Singh Rai, was a tycoon and patriarch who had deep interests in agriculture and timber. With his wife, Sarjij Kaur Rai had five children.
The woman also had her own interests, she was into agriculture focusing specifically on the flower business which earned her fame and respect in the well-endowed family.
An undated handout photo of the Mumias Sugar company which has gone into receivership.
Before her husband’s death in 2010, Sarjij Kaur pursued him and his two sons now at the center of endless battles around Mumias Sugar, domiciled in Kakamega County.
The older brother is fighting with his younger brother for control of Mumias Sugar which is in receivership, with the state pushing for its revival.
The eldest son, Jaswat Singh Rai, is based in Kenya and is the Chairman of Rai Group. Aside from just being chairman of his late father’s estate, he also owns the majority of shares in Rai products and other investments within their family line.
In his attempt to take control of the milling company, he is reported to have submitted a bid worth 36 billion Kenyan shillings for a period of 20 years.
His younger brother, Sarbi Singh Rai, meanwhile, is well established in neighboring Uganda. He leads the Sarrai group in this country.
The Sarrai Group owns a number of companies whose interests span plywood, sugar, wheat, soap, edible oil and mattress companies.
The younger brother submitted a Ksh 6 billion bid which won control of Mumias Sugar for a 20-year lease.
Jaswant maintains that his brother has no track record of sugar production in Kenya and that it is a business whose financial viability and technical capacity has no track record in Kenya. On the other hand, West Kenya is a well-established Kenyan company with a history of producing sugar in the country.
His sentiments were backed up by senior counsel Paul Muite who noted that the receiver manager Ponangipalli Rao does not have the professional experience to revive the ailing sugar company.
“The figures and analysis produced by the 1st defendant in the said responding affidavit are imaginary and based on conjecture and assumptions,” he said in an affidavit.
The milling business has one of the largest core estates at 4,000 hectares with the milling plant having a capacity of 8,000 per day making it the largest sugar processor in Kenya.
The family dominated the sugar sector for some time and owns western Kenya, the Sukari and Olepito industries.
Data released in 2020 by the Sugar Directorate showed that the three companies controlled 45% of total sales in the country. This figure indicates a slight increase from the 41% that companies held in 2019.
Rai family members speak to the media at a past event