It is time to close Portland Cement

In Summary

• Portland Cement's 4,200 acres of land in Athi River is worth at least Sh15 billion.

• The cement company has debts of Sh10 billion and is losing Sh2 billion annually.

East African Portland Cement Company plant in Athi River.
East African Portland Cement Company plant in Athi River.
Image: FILE

Portland Cement this week laid off all its staff pending a reorganisation of the state-owned company.

Industrialisation CS Peter Munya said that government would support the recapitalisation of Portland. This would be a mistake. It is time to close down Portland Cement.

The state should only go into business where there is a strategic necessity. Competitive business should be left to the private sector.

An exception can be made for monopolies which might be exploited for excessive profits by the private sector. Therefore, it makes sense to keep the Kenya Pipeline Company in government hands as it monopolises fuel delivery.

There are six competitive private cement companies in Kenya including Bamburi and ARM. More investors like Dangote are thinking of entering the market. There is no strategic necessity for the government to own a cement company.

Portland is losing around Sh2 billion a year which has to be paid by government. But in addition, it suffers from invasions on its 4,200 acres because it is so close to Nairobi.

Yet that land is worth at least Sh15 billion. Selling it would provide enough to clear Portland's debts of Sh10 billion, make redundancy payments to the workers and give a decent chunk to the Treasury.

It is time to wind up Portland Cement. Why keep flogging a dead horse?

Quote of the day: "When results aren't good the manager gets the sack, that's the game."

Roy Keane
The Irish footballer was born on August 10, 1971