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2015 in retrospect

You’ve got to stay strong to be strong in tough times, American entrepreneur and businessman Tilman Fertitta once said. It is an art that has been perfected by Zimbabweans to stay afloat after another gruelling year. Standardbusiness relives the year.


Send ‘em home
Following, the High Court ruling in July allowing employers to dismiss workers on nothing more than three months’ notice, employer-employee relationship fell to its lowest, with the former saying the laws catered more for the interests of the latter. All hell broke loose soon after the ruling, until government intervened through railroading amendments to the Labour Act. Over 20 000 were thrown onto the streets.

It’s the economy, stupid
While politicians plotted the ouster of former vice-president Joice Mujuru and her allies, the economy was left to suffer. The ejection of Mujuru’s allies became a costly exercise and a burden on Treasury which had not planned for such expenditure. So was the recall of legislators by MDC-T from Parliament. The economic headwinds became evident as the year progressed with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority collecting less than the previous year. In the third quarter ended September 30, Zimra collected $878,22 million against a target of $964 million.

ZHL’s stormy $15 million cash call
Early this year, Zimre Holdings Limited asked shareholders for a cash injection through a rights issue. NMB Bank was the underwriter and government and the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) did not follow their rights. At the end of the exercise, a consortium led by Simon and Hamish Rudland ended up with 40,16% shares. It is the entry of the consortium that has angered the new NSSA board, led by banker Robin Vela, which is fighting for the transaction to be reversed, arguing there was no adequate disclosure.
The Vela-led board has been busy restructuring the authority in an exercise that has so far claimed the scalps of five executives, including then general manager James Matiza in October.

Lima masterstroke
Zimbabwe’s debt clearance plan was approved by the three preferred creditors — IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank — at a meeting in the Peruvian capital, Lima. Under the plan, Zimbabwe has to clear the $1,8 billion arrears by June 30, seen as a first step towards seeking debt treatment by the Paris Club and bilateral creditors in the context of a strong economic reform programme. It is envisaged that debt clearance will unlock fresh capital needed to reboot the economy. Zimbabwe has been taking crucial reforms under the IMF’s staff-monitored programme with the country meeting the set benchmarks. The final review of the programme will be done in the first quarter of 2016.

Exorcising Zimdollar ghost
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) finally exorcised the ghost of the Zimbabwean dollar by removing it from the official system. This killed speculation that the unit, banished at the onset of the multicurrency regime in 2009, could be retrieved from the recycle bin. That alone, was a confidence boost for the multi-currency regime credited with stemming hyperinflation.

Tell someone, government controls Telecel
Government acquired 60% in Telecel from VimpelCom in a deal worth $40 million, giving it a head-start to flex its muscle in the telecoms sector. The acquisition was done though government’s struggling ICT solutions provider. The acquisition of Telecel means that government will have a firm grip on the telecoms industry as it now wholly owns NetOne and TelOne. The acquisition comes at a time government has been forcing operators to share infrastructure in what critics say was meant to allow state-owned operators to catch up with Econet Wireless which has invested heavily in infrastructure.

Demutualisation, automation In March, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange demutualised in a development which will result in the separation of ownership of the exchange in line with internationally accepted codes of corporate governance.
Government will have 32% shareholding while stockbrokers will control the majority 68% stake. Post-demutualisation, government will halve its equity at 16% while brokers will have 34%.
Electronic trading of shares on ZSE began on July 6 but after a false start. The automated trading system is seen as the front-end of the trading cycle, with the central security depository making the back-end of the automated environment with a mandate for settlement of both scrip and cash.

Bonding well with coins
Last year, RBZ chief John Mangudya introduced bond coins to augment the multicurrency regime by providing change. The bond coins were an instant hit in 2015 as they were preferred to the South African rand which depreciated against the dollar. The bond coin is the new game in town after the rejection of the rand. Its acceptance can also be attributed to the confidence the market has in Mangudya.

Troubled banks exit the market
AfrAsia and Allied Bank surrendered their licences after failing to raise the required $25 million in minimum equity capital. The surrender of the licences came after the RBZ had given three troubled banks — AfrAsia, MetBank and Tetrad — the “sick men” of the banking sector, up to June 30 to shape up or ship out. MetBank improved its core banking capital above the $25 million. The Deposit Protection Corporation was appointed as the provisional judicial manager of Tetrad to oversee the day-to-day running of the bank.

GetBucks seeks the big bucks
After waiting for eight years, ZSE finally had an Initial Public Offer (IPO) after GetBucks offered shares to the public to raise $3,2 million. The IPO opened on December 7 and GetBucks will list on ZSE on January 15.
Two counters joined the bourse as a result of unbundling. Proplastic was unbundled from Masimba Holdings and joined ZSE in June. Innscor Africa Limited unbundled its quick service restaurant unit to unlock shareholder value. The unbundled unit, Simbisa, debuted on ZSE last month.

Mega visits
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the country early this month en route to the Sino Africa summit in South Africa. It was the first time a Chinese President had visited the country since 1996. Deals worth over $1 billion were signed for projects in power generation, fibre optic upgrade and construction of new Parliament building.
In August, Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote also visited the country scouting for investment opportunities. The businessman said he would invest in cement manufacturing, coal mining and power generation projects valued at over $1 billion.

Farewell ‘Insurance Encyclopaedia’
Albert Nduna was the founding managing director of the then Zimre in 1984. He was to lead the organisation that later transformed into ZHL with interests in insurance, property and banking. Nduna is leaving the financial services group at the end of the month after a career spanning 31 years.

Newsmakers of the year
In a year in which things seemed to be conspiring against Zimbabwe, monetary and fiscal authorities provided a glimmer of hope. Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa led the crusade in getting Zimbabwe to re-engage with international financial institutions. He endured painful verbal blows from Cabinet colleagues in the process. Mangudya restored confidence in the banking system by ridding the sector of troubled banks. He reintroduced the interbank market critical in the distribution of liquidity.

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