March 17, 2017 / 10:59 AM / in 8 months

Kenyan oil firm KenolKobil to open 30 new stations this year

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan oil marketer KenolKobil will open at least 30 new service stations this year to boost sales volumes, its chief executive said.

Pedestrians walk past a Kobil service station with the prices display of petrol (US $ 0.84 per litre unleaded) and diesel (US $ 0.72 per litre) on a signage in Kenya's capital Nairobi, February 7, 2016. The global oil price is hovering at about $30 U.S. dollars a barrel. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

KenolKobil was one of the best-performing stocks on the Nairobi bourse last year after it reduced debt and cut its financing, improving margins and earnings.

The company boosted its pretax profit by 27 percent last year to 3.54 billion shillings ($34.35 million). Fuel volumes rose by 30 percent.

“The story has not changed,” David Ohana, the group’s chief executive, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday, saying the company wanted to drive up volumes and focus on margins.

KenolKobil also operates in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia. Ohana said about 25 of the new stations will be in Kenya, where the economy is expanding by more than 5 percent per year.

The company, which has a 15 percent market share in Kenya with 200 service stations, partners with individuals who hold long-term leases on the sites.

“In terms of capital, it is nothing,” Ohana, a former major in the Israeli military who has lived in Africa for 15 years, said of the planned stations.

The company is not opening in new markets but may do so later.

“If in the future we have an opportunity to venture into South Africa, which is a mature market like Kenya, we will be happy to venture, either in partnership or alone,” he said.

Kenya is investing billions of shillings in energy. An oil pipeline linking the port of Mombasa with the capital Nairobi is expected to be completed this year.

Lebanon’s Zakhem International is building the 48 billion shilling pipeline, which will boost fuel supplies to the capital.

($1 = 103.0500 Kenyan shillings)

Editing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Dale Hudson

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