The case discusses the decision of a hypothetical London-based hedge fund manager, Greg Rubin, who manages a fund primarily investing in emerging and frontier markets to decide whether to buy (or short) Safaricom, a Kenya-based telecom and financial services company that became globally known more than a decade ago (2007) for its use of technology to facilitate payments via mobile phones. There was a real need in Kenya for a different system of payments and money transfers, given the large underbanked population (almost 80% lacking a formal bank account) and the widespread use of cash. M-Pesa, the system introduced by Safaricom was an astounding success and quickly achieved a dominant position in the Kenyan marketplace. Kenyans embraced the use of mobile phones to transfer money and pay bills. More than 10 years later, at the time of the case (March 2018), Safaricom's dominance is challenged by a series of missteps expanding abroad (e.g., to South Africa), increased competition at home, as well as the introduction of 3G and advanced smartphone technology.
The case allows for an examination of the investment thesis for Safaricom and its valuation. This requires the analysis of payment systems and their evolution in frontier markets as well as the analysis of country/political risk, among others. It is the combination of an innovative company from a frontier market and the introduction of new technologies that make this case interesting (and challenging) to analyze?by no means an obvious decision for Rubin.