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Nakumatt to speed up expansion after mall attack

18 October 2013, 07:17

Nairobi - The country's largest retail chain, Nakumatt, will speed up plans to open new outlets after its flagship store was destroyed in the Al Shabaab attack on a Westgate shopping mall, the chain's head said on Thursday.

Nakumatt lost more than 2 billion shillings ($23.52 million) in stock, furniture, fittings and business, when gunmen from the Al Shabaab group stormed the Wesgate mall and killed at least 67 people.

The store, where well-heeled locals and the city's expatriate community could buy anything from high-definition TV sets to French cheese, was completely destroyed when the mall partially collapsed, leaving a huge hole in the centre.

Managing Director Atul Shah said they had already opened a new store in the Ugandan capital Kampala since the attack, taking their total back to 40 after the loss of the Westgate branch.

Privately-held Nakumatt will open two stores in Kenya and three in Uganda by February next year, Shah said, partly to absorb the more than 150 workers who lost their jobs at the Westgate branch.

Shah said the loss at Westgate, where three staff were killed, had also hampered a plan to sell a 25 percent stake in the business to a strategic investor.

"That takes a backseat now with what has happened. We will continue with that plan but there is a little delay there," he said.

Nakumatt, which was partly covered by insurance for such an attack, would have to spend more on insurance cover for terrorism, Shah said.

"We all need to be prepared and have terrorism cover which again is going to become an expensive affair now that insurance companies will start raising premiums," he said.

He criticized the Kenyan authorities' response to the attack after reports that poor co-ordination between different security agencies may have contributed to the prolonged siege.

Reports in the local media have suggested Kenyan army used rocket-propelled grenades inside the building, which may have contributed to its collapse. However, the exact reasons for the building's collapse are not clear.

"From what is being reported they were only four terrorists, so how did we come to a stage where we have not got a Nakumatt there?" Shah said.

- Reuters


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