NAIROBI Oct 3 (Reuters) - Anglo-Dutch consumer goods firm Unilever said on Thursday it plans to invest 150 million euros ($203.9 million) in a new manufacturing plant in Kenya that will help it access the east African market.
Unilever's Global Chief Executive, Paul Polman, said the firm's planned investment will cater for the company's expanding interests in the region, including in Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Polman met Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi, as part of a visit to review his company's interests in the country and consult government and business leaders.
He said his company has identified Kenya as one of the three strategic hubs in Africa, alongside Nigeria and South Africa.
The London listed company already operates seven tea factories in Kenya's north-rift district of Kericho and it buys an estimated 30 percent of the commodity from farmers. Tea is the country's leading foreign currency earner.
Unilever's Kericho-based tea business has 8,400 hectares of tea bushes and seven factories producing tea for export.
Unilever also plans to expand its existing factories in the lush hill-top farmlands of Kericho to increase the amount of teas processed to 50,000 tonnes per year from 30,000 tonnes.
Its local tea subsidiary, Unilever Tea Kenya Limited, had its shares delisted from the Nairobi Securities Exchange in Jan. 2009 after its main shareholder, Brooke Bond, bought out minority shareholders.