Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|March 3, 2021|5 Minutes|In Billionaire Watch

Billionaire Watch

Will Africa’s richest man own one of the world’s richest football clubs?

In these difficult days for the world economy one of Africa’s billionaires is striving ahead of the game.

Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa raised $840 million in a bond sale in London to refinance debt and pay for expansion in Africa with his company Liquid Telecom.   

Liquid Telecom, controlled by African telecommunications tycoon Strive Masiyiwa, raised US$840-million (R12.4-billion) in a bond sale to refinance debt and expand further into Africa. The offering was oversubscribed more than five times, according to the company.

“The level of interest from high-quality investors has been unprecedented for an African issuer and reflects an excess of 220 investor orders. The order book shows the confidence that investors have in the future growth strategy for the group,” says Kate Hennessy the Liquid Telecom chief financial officer.

Liquid Telecom has installed more than 70 000km of fibre across Africa. It operates five data centres in South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda.

While Masiyiwa is taking off, another billionaire is disembarking.  Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris plans to accept a $4.7bn domestic takeover bid for his stake in a private jet company, Signature Aviation, the world’s largest operator of private aircraft bases. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Sawiris’s investment vehicle, NNS, is set to sell its 7.42% stake to a bidding consortium led by Blackstone Group Inc and Global Infrastructure Partners.

Signature Aviation is the largest private aircraft operator and is a UK-based multinational aviation services company that is listed on the London Stock Exchange. 

Sawiris is the owner of the English Premier League football club Aston Villa in Birmingham. There is speculation in the Birmingham press that the sale of the stake could free up some of the billionaire’s money to invest in Aston Villa.

Speaking of football, there is talk of Africa’s richest man buying one of the world’s richest football clubs.   

Not for the first time, the name of Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote – worth more than $8 billion – has been linked with buying Arsenal – a chance for an injection of new capital into a team that has arguably been in the doldrums for a decade.

What is the link with Arsenal and Dangote? Well, it dates back to the 1980s and the Englishman who sold Dangote his first boatload of sugar – David Dein who was to become the charman of the club he supported all his life, Arsenal.

It all began the day the then 37-year-old sugar trader Dein met the fresh-faced 23-year-old commodity trader Dangote in Lagos way back in 1980.The year before, Margaret Thatcher had won the elections back in Britain. One of her first acts in power was to tear up exchange controls and liberalize the economy, freeing British companies to search for business in emerging markets like Nigeria. Dein, who was to become a tycoon in the buoyant, buccaneering, 1980s, was travelling West Africa looking for new business. He was introduced to Dangote by a mutual friend. The two got on well.

“We had such a warm relationship in the late 1980s, I enjoyed being with him enjoyed trading with him. I don’t think he allowed me to make any money! He knew the price of everything. He used to ring my competitors, in front of me, to check whether he was getting the lowest price. It was just to keep me on the ball – I was always on the ball anyway!” says Dein.

Dein owned the London and Overseas (Sugar) Company – founded in 1964 and dissolved in 1997 – which operated in Nigeria; Ghana; Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire. 

When Dangote used to come to London, he would look up Dein and the two would often go off to watch Arsenal – a club Africa’s richest man may soon own.