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NAIROBI, March 18 (Reuters) - Kenya's leading mobile service provider Safaricom (SCOM.NR) said on Tuesday that a phone-based money transfer service it launched 11 months ago had handled 9.3 billion Kenya shillings ($145 million) to date.
Safaricom started its M-Pesa service in March 2007. Many Kenyans, especially those living in rural areas, have limited access to conventional bank accounts.
At the time of the launch, Safaricom had 5.8 million subscribers, compared with about 9.5 million now. Since the launch, the firm has attracted 1.6 million M-Pesa users.
"Since the launch of M-Pesa ... 11 months ago, the service has recorded cumulative person-to person transfers of over 9.3 billion shillings," Michael Joseph, Safaricom's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The M-Pesa service lets customers move between 100 shillings and 35,000 shillings per transaction.
The company had entered a partnership with mortgage firm Housing Finance HOUS.NR, whose 10 outlets will increase the M-Pesa network to over 1,850, the statement added.
M-Pesa users can also collect money from Equity Bank (EQTY.NR) branches, which along with insurance firm British American Investments Company, has a 24.9 percent stake in Housing Finance.
Equity Bank has just over 70 branches countrywide.
The government owns 60 percent of Safaricom while Britain's Vodafone (VOD.L) owns the rest.
Kenya is due to sell a 25 percent stake in Safaricom, or 10 billion shares worth at least 50 billion shillings, starting next week in what it says is the biggest IPO at the Nairobi Stock Exchange -- or anywhere in east Africa.
Safaricom recorded a pre-tax profit of 17.19 billion shillings in the year ended March 2007.
Safaricom's main competitor Celtel Kenya, a unit of Kuwait's Zain Group (ZAIN.KW), also started a similar money transfer service a month after M-Pesa's launch. (Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Daniel Wallis)