World fertiliser giant Uralchem close to Chemplex takeover

Uralchem CEO Dmitry Mazepin arriving in Harare, Sunday

Uralchem, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, is close to a deal to take over Chemplex, Zimbabwe’s biggest chemical and fertiliser maker.

Dmitry Mazepin, the billionaire owner of Uralchem, arrived in Zimbabwe on Sunday for talks with Government authorities.

“We shall see, but I am really serious over the plan. Russia is ready to invest in the country,” Mazepin said on prospects of closing the Chemplex deal on his visit.

Chemplex, a unit of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), is one of several state owned enterprises that the Government has put up for privatisation. IDC has selected Ernst & Young to advise on the sale of its interest in Chemplex.

Zimbabwe has just one ammonium nitrate producer, Sable Chemicals, which can only supply a quarter of market demand.
Chemplex owns half of the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company, 36% of Sable Chemicals and wholly owns ZimPhos, the only producer of phosphatic fertiliser raw materials in the country. ZimPhos in turn owns Dorowa Minerals, the country’s sole phosphate mine, also a major draw for Mazepin.

Chemplex’s non-core investments include a 50% shareholding in Allied Insurance and a 64% interest in Chemplex Animal and Public Health.

Satellite image of ZimPhos’ Msasa plant in Harare. Chemplex owns 100% of ZimPhos

This is Mazepin’s second visit this year to Zimbabwe, having first arrived in February on a mission to seek out investment in the country’s fertiliser business. During that meeting, he held meetings with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mazepin is one of Russia’s richest businessmen. According to Forbes, his net worth is $3.2 billion, although various Russian media value him at up to $7.7 billion. Forbes places him in the Top 100 of richest Russians.

Through his company Uralchem, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of ammonium nitrate, Mazepin controls a lucrative share of the global fertiliser market. In 2013, Mazepin bought an interest in Uralkali, the world’s largest miner of potash, which is used in the manufacture of fertiliser. Uralkali is worth $15 billion.

Through Uralchem and Uralkali, Mazepin plans to create a hub in Zimbabwe and Zambia that will supply fertiliser into the region. According to Mazepin, Zimbabwean and Zambian farmers pay around US$500 per tonne for fertiliser, but he believes Uralchem can supply product direct to farmers at a price closer to the shipping cost of $300 per tonne.

Mazepin has links to Russia’s top lenders, such as Sberbank, VTB and Renaissance Capital. VTB and RenCap have previously done business in Zimbabwe.

Russia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of ammonium nitrate.