French investors swoop on MicroKing

HARARE - French firms Microcred Group (Microcred) and AfricInvest Finance Sector Fund (AfricInvest) have acquired local micro-lending company, MicroKing Finance (MicroKing).

Market watchers say the development confirms France’s commitment to strengthen bilateral relations with Zimbabwe as well as grow the southern African country’s moribund economy through job creation.

Microcred and AfricInvest yesterday confirmed the acquisition and said the process was now subject to regulatory approvals.

“Microcred has reached an agreement to acquire, together with AfricInvest, 100 percent ownership of MicroKing… Closing of the transaction is now subject to obtaining final regulatory approval,” the companies said in a joint statement.

MicroKing is a subsidiary of AfrAsia Zimbabwe, which surrendered its operating licence in January last year.

Early this year, France’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe Laurent Delahousse said French investors are willing to increase the investments in the country following the introduction of new amendments to the Indigenisation Act.

“We are happy with the new amendments and clarifications that have been brought by the Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Youth and Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao,” he said adding that he hopes the new amendments would be implemented soon in a transparent manner.

“I hope the situation is going to improve soon and there are good business opportunities for business and job creation, trade, investment and for commerce to improve our economic relations,” he said.

Some of French companies that have footprints in Zimbabwe include Lafarge, Total, Vinci, SamrecImerys, Bureau Veritas, SeedCo and Limagrain, Motech and Motul, AGS Frasers, Gyproc and Saint Gobain, Anchor Yeast and Lesaffre, Meteo France International and Sanofi.

The disposal of MicroKing has been under the wraps since the collapse of AfrAsia Zimbabwe after it emerged that Britain’s

Department for International Development (DFID) $800 000  investment was trapped in the microfinance unit.

In his Mid-term Monetary Policy Statement last year, central governor John Mangudya said a consortium of European investors, Microcred and AfricInvest, would invest $25 million in the microfinance unit.

“The investors will have a 100 percent stake in MicroKing and they can regularise as they go. We are concerned about the depositors’ funds and the resuscitation of the bank,” he said.

MicroKing was closed due to problems emanating from its parent company but resumed operations around July last year.

AfrAsia Zimbabwe’s asset management subsidiary was also sold off last year and is now trading as Smartvest.

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