AfrAsia to up AKZL stake?

HARARE - A Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) announcement that it will “approve and facilitate” shareholding changes in AfrAsia Kingdom Zimbabwe Limited (AKZL) has raised speculation that Mauritius-based AfrAsia Bank Limited (ABL) could be planning to increase its stake in the financial group.

This comes on the back of an alleged dispute between Zach Wazara’s Spiritage and AKZL’s subsidiary Kingdom Bank Limited (KBL) over a $21 million loan.

“We have… undertaken to approve and facilitate all legal and administrative requirements on the part of AfrAsia Bank Limited, any other shareholder, existing or new, should it become necessary that they inject money and increase their shareholding,” RBZ governor Gideon Gono said at the weekend.

The central bank chief said the changes in AKZL’s shareholding structure should “ultimately see the bank emerging much stronger in terms of capital, corporate governance, and any other issues raised during our ongoing supervision of the bank.”

It also comes amid reports that ABL has formally informed the RBZ that it is interested in increasing its shareholding in AKZL.

According to Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy, ABL — currently holding a 35 percent stake in AKZL — can only increase its stake by 14 percent.

The country’s Indigenisation Act allows foreign-owned firms to hold up to 49 percent shareholding while the rest should be in the hands of black locals.

ABL acquired the AKZL stake in a $9,5m deal in January last year.

Meanwhile, Wazara, who has lost Spiritage’s subsidiary Valley Technologies to Lalela Trading — a KBL-linked company, has accused the bank of interest overcharge on the $21m loan and abuse of an international credit facility.

Despite the troubles, Gono said KBL is in a “sound financial position to continue normal business”, adding that the RBZ was aware of the conflict between Chanakira and Wazara.

“In view of our on-site and off-site evaluations of the bank (Kingdom), and concrete corrective measures being taken by the bank, with our approval, and given the quality of the major shareholder,
AfrAsia Bank Limited (AfrAsia) and their commitment to ensure stability of the bank, we are confident that the situation is under control for normal business to continue,” Gono said.

On Friday ABL affirmed its investment in AKZL, adding it will continue supporting KBL and was committed to the Zimbabwean interest.

“Since it made the investment in AKZL… ABL has been providing support and assistance to the group through lines of credit, guarantee lines and delegated staff to support its operations,” the group said.

“ABL would like to re-assure the various stakeholders of KBL of our support to the bank as well as to Zimbabwe. ABL’s investment and belief in Zimbabwe is for the long-term,” it said.

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