In 2022, inflation remained high, the exchange rate was on steroids for long periods, lights went out often and Zimbabwe’s long tradition of policy shifts kept businesses on edge.
There was, still, some business to be done, for better or for worse.
Here, we look back at some of the top company news we covered this year.
Stories about transactions
Holcim, the global cement company, which has been selling a lot of its businesses around the world, sold its Zimbabwe business to Fossil Mining for US$29.7 million. The sale wasn’t without controversy, as Fossil is owned by Kuda Tagwirei’s long time business buddy, Obey Chimuka. Not long after the deal, Fossil and Chimuka were put under US sanctions.
CBZ, Zimbabwe’s biggest bank, bought FML, one of the country’s largest insurers. That’s one more step in the grand ambitions of CBZ’s shareholders; create a financial services company big enough to take on the likes of Old Mutual.
Elsewhere, Mega Market, a company that has its name on lots of consumer goods, took over Turnall after buying NSSA’s stake.
In South Africa, Zimbabwean Hamish Rudland offered to buy sugar producer Tongaat Hullet via a rights offer, but bitter minority shareholder opposition ultimately led to the deal’s rejection by authorities there.
That oil and gas story
Invictus Energy in August finally started exploration drilling to confirm whether or not there are commercially viable gas or oil resources under the vast Cabora Bassa area. The company hired known names in the game, including the drill rig from Exalo and well services company Baker Hughes. After Mukuyu-1, the first well drilled, the company has another site, Baobab, up next.
This is the first-ever such drilling campaign in Zimbabwe.
Infrastructure: that double-lane story
One of those stories that have two sides, or more, all equally compelling.
The construction companies such as PPC and Masimba Holdings, had a good year as they coined it from the infrastructure spending. There was demand from new mining and housing projects. But, more crucially for news hounds and Zimbabwe’s oversized ranks of economic talking-heads, there was demand from government projects, such as roads. While the public projects brought good fortune for the companies, and somewhat better infrastructure, government admitted how some of the spending was stoking inflation.
Stories about mine deals
There were many things keeping mine executives up at night – power cuts, the exchange rate – but it wasn’t a bad year for mining deals.
Caledonia agreed to buy Bilboes gold mine for US$53 million worth of stock, in a deal that could increase Caledonia’s gold output four-fold. The company plans to invest US$200 million into Zimbabwe to develop that asset. Caledonia also bought Motapa Mine from Metallon, its third buy in just about a year.
After many delays, Karo Mining, finally put boots on the ground as it launched the US$391 million Selous platinum mine. A USD bond, which raised US$31.8 million to part-fund the mine, was the first such debt instrument seen on the local market in almost a decade.
In Hwange, coal heated up, with new investors Contango of UK and Western Coal stepping up mine development, to take advantage of rising coal demand. Zimbabwe shipped its first-ever coal to China.
In the Midlands, Tsingshan, the world’s biggest stainless-steel company, started building Manhize, a new 1.2 million-tonne-per-year steel plant.
Also this year, Padenga’s mining unit Dallaglio swung to a US$12.7 million half-year profit from a loss in 2021. The company announced a US$29 million investment to expand gold production.
At Mimosa, the company announced fresh investment of US$200 million to develop new mining areas and improve processing at its mine in Zimbabwe. RioZim completed a new US$52 million diamond processing plant at Murowa.
Kuvimba Mining was handed a deal to do the improbable: reviving Ziscosteel. It’s yet another deal that the company must have received with both hands, as one does after seeing Zisco’s idle ore deposits.
Zimbabwe is best. Or maybe not
Zimplats put into motion what is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest mining investments in recent times, a US$1.8 billion expansion that includes new mines, expanded processing and a solar plant.
Nico Muller, CEO of Zimplats parent Implats set a few tongues wagging among the commentariat, telling investors: “Zimbabwe is the best jurisdiction to operate in, least disruption, predictable production profile, best safety record, etc. I’m happy that others see Zimbabwe as a risk. It allows us to continue expanding our interest there”.
Not everyone liked that. But then not everyone is putting US$1.8 billion where their mouths are.
The lithium story
Lithium is a metal that not only helps fire up batteries, but also fires up people’s emotions. There was a rush of new lithium projects in the country, which brought eyeballs to every fresh news article on the metal.
This year, Huayou Cobalt completed the US$422 million acquisition of Prospect Resources and started building its new US$300 million mine at Arcadia. Sinomine bought Bikita Minerals for US$180 million and began its own US$200 million construction. Sabi Star started building a new US$130 million lithium mine in Buhera.
UK’s Premier African Minerals signed an offtake deal with Suzhou TA&A, raising US$35 million, and started building a pilot plant at Fort Rixon. Smaller UK explorers, such as Red Rock and Galileo, also rushed in to stake claims.
Hot property stories
Property investors looked for niche corners to keep value against inflation. Developers and brick companies like Willdale reported firm orders from projects such as cluster homes.
Warehousing became a bit of a rage – demand from the trade sector and manufacturers.
Mashonaland Holdings bought land in the Pomona industrial park to build a new project, and started constructing a private hospital in Milton Park.
Terrace Africa added a fresh sheen to the property business, opening retail assets Highland Park, Chinamamo Corner and Madokero. The Tigere Fund became Zimbabwe’s first-ever REIT when it was listed on the stock exchange.
After some ribbon cutting at the Madokero project, there were hot online debates about what a mall looks like. The debates went well into the night. And into the next night. And the one after that. Meanwhile, the company was plotting its next project – to finally do something about the messy maze that is the Harare Showgrounds by turning it into – don’t say it too loud – a mall.
The ones that left
Standard Chartered Zimbabwe announced in April that it was quitting Zimbabwe, together with six other markets, ending 130 years in the country, and sparking quarrels about the country’s business climate.
Russia’s Vi Holdings exited Great Dyke Investments, leaving the future of what is supposed to be Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum project at risk. The company cited Western sanctions on Russia for its decision to leave. Kuvimba, the local partner, took up the remaining 50% and is pondering what to do with the massive hole – financial and geological – left by GDI.
We like fights, of the corporate sort
Admit it. We all like a brawl, at least of the corporate sort.
Few do this competition thing better than Innscor. The company invested US$71 million in expansion projects in 2021-2022, and put down US$56 million more for the coming year. One such area of expansion is a brewery. The company launched Nyathi, a sorghum beer brand. This brews up a nice bar brawl with Delta’s Chibuku in 2023.
Delta itself flexed muscles in its fizzy drinks war with Varun, saying it had won back market share from the Pepsi bottler. Varun isn’t stopping the snapping, signing a solar deal with DPA to keep its plant running and expanding its trusted network of merchandise carts – including distributing carts to the makorokoza association.
Simbisa Brands, the country’s biggest fast foods company, added 27 new outlets in the past year and announced that it plans a further 45 as part of a US$23 million expansion. Rivals, including KFC, finally stopped being boring and started to show some fight in them, with a slightly more aggressive rollout. May feathers fly.
Comings and goings
Anthony Mandiwanza left his post as CEO of Dairibord. He had headed the company since 1996, the year Macarena was the top song in the world and Penny Penny released Yogo Yogo. FD Mercy Ndoro took over as CEO of the dairy producer.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed Tafadzwa Chinamo as the new CEO of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency. Chinamo is a respected former manager who headed the financial markets regulator for a decade. He replaced Doug Munatsi, who died in 2021.