Chiyangwa clings to Circle Cement, hopes for more


Staff Writers

PHILLIP Chiyangwa, who in 2003 sprang a surprise with a 16% share acquisition of Circle Cement, says he “still enjoys” his hold on the eastern Harare cement and mortar manu

facturer, and is looking for more opportunities in the group.


Chiyangwa and colleagues, who used distressed Ukubambana-Kubatana Investments (UKI)’s renamed brokerage arm, was part of a team of investors who swooped on the erstwhile profitable firm following French resources giant Lafarge’s exit in recent years.


The Chiyangwa front, UKI Nominees, has been collapsed into Fidelity Securities, along with parent and forerunner UKI Securities.


The self-styled empowerment guru and Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman splashed billions in the 2003 buy-out when Circle’s shares were trading at $25.


And despite having realised a five-fold growth in the stock to $130 a share at Monday’s close, Chiyangwa told businessdigest this week that he is yet “to taste” a dividend from the investment.


A bustling entrepreneur, Chiyangwa and co-UKI investors are listed as the second largest shareholders in the former Lafarge subsidiary, whose profits have been squeezed by the current business climate hence its inability to cough up any dividend payments.


Today, the investment proxy is listed as owning just under 20% of Circle, playing second fiddle to Associated International Cement with an unassailable 76% controlling stake in the company.


Chiyangwa, however, declared that he was “out on the market” to get whatever scrip he can to bolster his grip on a company he feels bodes well with his construction interests, including Critall Hope.


At any rate, he argued, the Chiyangwa family-held Critall was one of Circle’s major customers.


“(Circle) is a strategic investment for me since I am one of the biggest players in the construction industry,” Chiyangwa said.


“In fact, I am still interested in increasing my stake in the company. I am looking for Circle Cement shares every day. I want those shares.”


An executive with Chiyangwa’s scrip holders Fidelity refused to discuss the Circle share hunt and that the Harare businessman had instructed them to snap up on-offer shares.


Through Critall and other property development vehicles, Chiyangwa has built houses in Harare and other major urban centres, with his steel fabricating companies anchoring window frame and other steel-requirement supplies.


He has undertaken real estate developments in Harare’s southern Waterfalls suburb and earmarked a couple more in northern Chinhoyi.

Critall is just but one of the many Native Investments Africa Group divisions founded by the colourful ruling government legislator and also includes Bulawayo-based steel concern Zeco.


Meanwhile, cement and building materials competitor Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) has kept its faith in Zimbabwe, saying its investment “remains strategic” and will continue to improve profits significantly.


Despite having ceased consolidation of Porthold Zimbabwe, results in the main financial outlines for the South African group and confirmed low demand of products north of the Limpopo, PPC said: “Whilst the current economic situation in Zimbabwe is not satisfactory, the investment continues to be strategic and will contribute significantly to earnings, once the economic crisis there is resolved.”


The company singles out high inflation and foreign currency constraints as some of the major issues confronting business and commercial sectors in Zimbabwe in the past six years or so.


PPC, along with Circle, is one of the many Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed companies to reflect a revamped outlook, due largely to mutating ownership earned by a hostile environment and relenting former shareholders under the guise of commercial refocus.


Although costly, its stock also remains an investor’s darling.