Woes of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange

($ refers to USD)

The value of shares traded on the recently demutualized Zimbabwe Stock Exchange fell by 22.2% in the first quarter of 2015, compared to the same quarter last year. A story from The Herald newspaper said that turnover to 31 March was $70 million, down from $90 million in the first quarter of 2014. However, the volume of shares traded was up to 586 million from last year’s 306 million for the period.
Trading in January was $16m (down from $63m in 2014), in February $35m ($26m) and in March $19m ($27m). The share bought by foreigners was down to $41m ($64m) over the quarter.

Zimbabwe Stock Exchange liquidity to 30 April (source ZSE website)

Zimbabwe Stock Exchange liquidity to 30 April (source ZSE website)

Meanwhile the exchange seems to be hit by a series of controversies and several companies have delisted, or removed their shares from trading.
The exchange in March was reported in the Herald newspaper that “go-live” date would be 19 June for its new automated trading system, Capizar ATS trading software from Infotech Middle East FZ, part of Infotech Group of Pakistan. This was in terms of a contract signed in March 2014, as reported here last September. However there has been little news of progress and the project missed previous deadlines, including for February.
There has also been criticism of the ZSE’s relocation to Ballantyne Park, a suburb 8.5km from the central business district effective 1 April before the automated trading system was ready. The new office has a smaller trading area. The Herald newspaper reported that parliamentarians and lobby groups had protested and Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance David Chapfika said that relocating the exchange to Ballantyne Park will mean that small players will be excluded. ZSE interim chairperson Mrs Eve Gadzikwa said the move was necessary because of high rentals.

SECZ investigates ZSE CEO
In February the Herald newspaper reported that the Securities and Exchanges Commission of Zimbabwe (SECZ) was investigating ZSE CEO Alban Chirume after complaints over the suspension of Meikles (see below). He is said to have acted unprocedurally when he suspended Meikles and then unprofessionally when the decision was reversed. There were also complaints after he placed a notice in a newspaper urging investors to exercise caution when dealing with the shares.
If SECZ finds against him, he could be suspended or fired, according to the Herald report. Past CEO Emmanuel Munyukwi, who had been in post for many years, was suspended after an SECZ investigation and subsequently left the ZSE “on mutual agreement”.
According to the Herald: “Away from the Meikles issue, Mr Chirume has faced criticism over the purchase of a residential building in Ballantyne Park, the overshooting of the budget in the purchase of a vehicle and the numerous instances he has undermined the ZSE board and stockbrokers.”
An amendment in 2013 to Zimbabwe’s Securities Act gives the SECZ the power to dissolve the board of a registered securities exchange or dismiss one or more of its members, but only on certain grounds, and subject to appeal. If it dissolves a whole board it can appoint someone to run the exchange but only until a new board is elected in accordance with the articles of association, which should be within 3 months.

Delistings
Paint and chemical products manufacturer, Astra Industries, was the latest to leave at the close of business on 30 April after majority shareholders Kansai Plascon Africa (listed in Tokyo) and Hermistar investment vehicle for Astra management and staff increased their combined holding to 80.2%, breaching the rule of 30% free float, and applied to the ZSE to leave. Regional manufacturer ART Corporation may follow after buying out minorities.
Other recent delistings include TA Holdings and ABC Holdings in February. According to an article in Financial Gazette, 16 companies have delisted since 2007 when the hard currency (USD) economy was adopted – 8 of these chose to delist, and 8 were insolvent. Such is the turmoil in the Zimbabwe economy that many other companies are probably insolvent but it has not been announced yet as local manufacturers with high hard-currency costs and ancient machines cannot compete with imported goods. Meanwhile, another 4 companies are suspended: PG Industries, Cottco (formerly AICO Holdings), Phoenix and Celsy.
The article warns that more delistings are due this year, including Meikles (see below), Dawn Properties, African Sun. It says that companies do not see the benefit in being listed (see bottom of article). They cannot raise money successfully on the bourse due to the liquidity squeeze and shares being listed at a small fraction of their true value, unless money comes from foreign investors, who usually prefer to buy out minorities and delist. The peak had been over 80 listings.
The only new listing was in 2010 when Innscor Africa’s unbundled Padenga Securities and listed it through dividend in specie. The ZSE did particularly better than most parts of the economy during the years of hyperinflation as desperate investors turned to properties, equities or foreign currencies. It slowed dramatically after allowing trading in foreign currencies.
Creating a second-tier exchange for small companies is unlikely to have an overall positive effect on liquidity or the market.

Meikles row
A leading hotel group, Meikles Limited, is suing the ZSE for $50m in damages and is also warning that it may not remain listed. According to a Reuters report in March, Meikles filed papers on 26 February at the High Court, after its shares were suspended from trading for a week in February and then allowed again from 23 February. Meikles said its share price had fallen and its reputation suffered and it is seeking compensation for “potentially irreparable” consequences of its suspension. The ZSE also issued a warning that people should use caution when trading the shares.
Meikles also operates retail including supermarket chain TM Supermarkets (South Africa’s Pick’n’Pay has 49%), Tanganda Tea, the Victoria Falls Hotel and has a stake in Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town.

New governance?

Meanwhile ZSE governance could change dramatically after the demutualization was completed recently, as reported last week. Some market participants were said to be surprised when stockbrokers ended up with a 68% majority of the company, after Government took 32%. There had been some suggestions of ownership wrangles.
This could mean that stockbrokers can hold a General Meeting and replace directors or otherwise take action on how the company is managed.

Why the stockmarket does not help business
(quoted from Financial Gazette)
Horticultural concern, Interfresh, which delisted on the last day of trading in 2013, highlighted the problems with being listed.
Chief executive officer, Lishon Chipango, said: “At the moment for us there is not too much (gains from listing). If you look at the contextual framework of the stock market, one of the benefits of being listed is to raise capital, but if you raise capital when the shares are so depressed, you are not going to raise that much. So the issue of benefiting if listed maybe down the road. (I) would not be surprised if others followed (us by delisting).
“The other aspect is there is no money in Zimbabwe. All the capital being raised is external. For us, it is not attractive,” Chipango said.
He then mourned over the discounted rate at which the company’s shares were trading.
“The rights issue to raise the US three million dollars (in 2012) caused a dilution of 75 percent because we used stock market valuations. Now if at that time we had raised money using Net Asset Value instead of stock market valuation, the dilution would have been 15 percent. You see why we are running away from the stock market? We are running away from the stock market valuation,” said Chipango.

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