Just a year ago, Jusan Bank, one of the largest lenders in Kazakhstan, bought a stake in Kcell, one of the largest operators in the country, during a shopping spree at mobile telecommunications companies. Now, he plans to sell it.
Kcell’s main shareholders are Kazakhtelecom (51 percent), Pioneer Technologies (14.87 percent), Jusan Bank (9.08 percent) and the Single Pension Fund of Kazakhstan (7.07 percent).
kazakhtelecom sold out a 24 percent stake to Jusan and Pioneer in September 2021. Pioneer, which is registered in Luxembourg, is connected to Jusan because both ownership structures link back to Nazarbayev Foundationan institution established by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The deal was later criticized by a lobbyist working on behalf of minority shareholders in Kazakhstan, as the announcement of the sale caused a significant drop in price in the weeks leading up to the transaction.
Kcell used to be the local brand of the Nordic telecommunications giant TeliaSonera, which infamous ownership of several mobile phone providers in Central Asia that were wrapped in corruption scandals. Through Rodnik, an investment vehicle, TeliaSonera also owned KazTransCom, a major telecommunications service provider. In 2018, Telia sold his shares to a group of companies said to be close to Timur Kulibayev, one of the country’s richest businessmen and Nazarbayev’s son-in-law.
In early 2021, Jysan Ventures, a company affiliated with the bank, acquired KazTransCom, in a move to invest in mobile financial services. (Note: Jusan Bank and its affiliated parties also use the Jysan and Jýsan spellings.)
In May 2022, Jusan paid around 200 million tenge ($410,000) as a result of a lawsuit by the Single Pension Fund, which had accused the bank of paying less than the market price for the shares at the time of the deal with KazTranscom.
Jusan’s investments in telecommunications services appeared to be a move to catch up with Kaspithe fintech giant that listed in london at the end of 2020.
However, on September 12, Jusan Bank announced its plan to sell his 9.08 percent stake in Kcell.
Nurdaulet Aidosov, the bank’s president, said the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna, was among the few parties interested in making an offer.
“We give [Samruk-Kazyna] our preference, because we appreciate their corporate governance, domestic policy, development strategy and reforms,” Aidosov said in a Press conference. While he declined to comment on the financial details of the transaction, he said “the deal will be mutually beneficial to both parties.”
Samruk-Kazyna already owns 51 percent in Kazakhtelecom, majority shareholder of Kcell. Between 2018 and March 2022, Nazarbayev’s nephew, Kairat Satybaldy property a 24% stake in Kazakhtelecom through a company registered in Luxembourg.
Explaining Satybaldy’s arrest in March, the anti-corruption agency claimed that his arrest was related to alleged embezzlement at the expense of Kazakhtelecom. In April, Satybaldy I quit its Kazakhtelecom assets, which reverted to the state.
Speaking at Jusan’s press conference in September, Aidosov also transparently admitted that Kcell is the bank’s biggest borrower, after it took out a three-year 60.5 billion tenge ($130 million) loan at the end of 2021. The credit facility amounted to about 29 percent of Kcell’s assets.
days before, a Bloomberg The report cited sources close to the deal as saying the sale transaction would “reverse Kcell’s controversial privatization that was marred by suspicions of stock price manipulation.”
Though young on paper, Jusan’s story stretches back several decades.
Backed by the Nazarbayev Foundation, in February 2019, a finance company known as First Heartland Securities purchased Tsesnabank, then the country’s third-largest lender. The name of the bank was later changed to Jusan.
In 2018 and early 2019, Tsesnabank had received a government bailing out with a total value of $3.4 billion. In March 2019, Nazarbayev unexpectedly give up after three decades in power.
In 2020, Jusan announced his intention to buy mid-sized ATF Bank, a deal that closed before the end of the year.
Having grown up while receiving help from the government in cleaning up his toxic assets, Jusan seemed poised to venture into a variety of innovative services in Kazakhstan’s financial sector. The divestment of Kcell appears to be a step backwards, although the bank’s indicators say it continues to penetrate the market.