Foreigners eye Blue Ribbon

HARARE - At least 10 foreign and local investors have submitted bids to acquire embattled milling firm Blue Ribbon Industries Limited (BRI), businessdaily has learnt.

BRI, which is under judicial management, was forced to close shop last year due to working capital challenges coupled with pressure from a $2m debt obtained from PTA Bank.

The company — one of the country’s largest millers — was placed under provisional management by the High Court to facilitate revival efforts.

According to sources close to the development, interested foreign investors have been touring BRI’s Bulawayo and Harare plants.

“Last week Tanzanian and Chinese investors were here (Harare plant) assessing the situation on the ground.
The investors were impressed with what they saw and we hope something good might come out of the tours,” said the source.

BRI has a net liability position of nearly $5m following heavy losses recorded over the past four years.

Its average breakeven capacity utilisation is around 48 percent, but the current utilised is around 11 percent.

The group recorded a $6,5 million loss last year.

BRI’s judicial manager Grant Thornton Camelsa Chartered Accountants (Grant Thornton) — who are facilitating the deals — had not responded to questions sent to them by time of going to print, but recently indicated that investors could either acquire the miller or provide funding to restart operations.

“Tenders are hereby invited from interested parties to invest in the group or to purchase the operations of BRI and its subsidiaries (under judicial management),” Grant Thornton said in February.

BRI is known for its popular maize meal brands Ngwerewere and Chibataura.

The company has five divisions which include BRI Logistics, Blue Ribbon Foods, JA Mitchells and Nutresco Foods.

Meanwhile, industry players say the successful acquisition of the grain milling and food processing firm will bring relief to hundreds of workers who have been out of employment for the past 18 months.

“The importance of this company in terms of national food security cannot be overemphasised,” said Tafadzwa Musarara, president of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe.

He said despite being encumbered with huge debt, the entity can be salvaged and it presents a huge opportunity for keen and able indigenous entrepreneurs to takeover.

“We appeal to banks, especially indigenous banks, to assist in the resumption of business at BRI in order to enhance basic goods availability and price stability,” he said. - Business Writer

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