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Barbican bid still on

Ngoni Chanakira

THE bid by Barbican Holdings Ltd (Barbican) for a 40% stake in Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Ltd (Zimplats) is still on despite efforts to scuttle it, says Barbican chief executive officer Mthuli N


Ncube has made a hostile bid for a 40% stake in Zimplats, a lucrative mining venture.

“Bids are not made in newspapers,” Ncube said in an interview with businessdigest this week. “Actually we have not sent any official documentation to Zimplats. We only sent a letter of intent and this is very different from the actual bid. Maybe they (journalists) are confusing the letter of intent with the bid.”

He said Barbican was still “polishing up” its document, which would be in the form of a prospectus to meet the stringent conditions of the Australian Stock Exchange, where Zimplats is also listed.

The offer counters that made by South African-based Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd (Implats) in June and could turn Barbican into a force to reckon with both locally and internationally.

The major Zimplats sharehold-ers are Implats (50,53%), National Nominees Ltd (8,24%), and Citicorp Nominees pty Ltd (6,73%). Implats increased its shareholding in Zimplats to 50,53% through the acquisition of prominent banking group Absa’s shareholding in Zimplats.

Implats this week said it wanted to further increase its stake to about 60%, a move Barbican claims “is meant to scuttle its bid”.

Zimplats has the largest deposits of platinum and palladium in the world and Barbican intends to tap into this major investment, Ncube said.

He said the prospectus would be ready next week after which the official bid would then be made.

“People are running scared about our bid and maybe that is why they are speculating so much about it,” he said. “However, when everything is finalised we will go public. I have yet to see a bid that has been made through the press.”

As at June 30, 89 285 360 fully-paid and quoted shares were on issue at Zimplats.

Insiders said the issue had taken a political twist because Ncube is chairman of the National Investment Trust (NIT) tasked by government to ensure that indigenous stakeholders took a 15% stake in Zimplats. They said politicians were now querying whether there is no “conflict of interest” with Ncube’s latest bid as Barbican CEO.

It is also reliably understood Ncube, arguably one of Zimbabwe’s richest bankers, intends to go into the deal with another businessman, South Africa’s Mzi Khumalo.

Khumalo, a shrewd South African business tycoon, has a mining empire and politicians allege Zimbabwe would not benefit from the marriage with Barbican.

“The amount set aside for indigenous players has nothing to do with what we are bidding for,” Ncube said. “The NIT was offered 15% and what we are going for are the minority shares on offer. Let us not confuse the two.”

However, Ncube said it was unfortunate that it was difficult for the NIT to secure sufficient support from investors to snap up the shares on offer.

“As you know people become skeptical whenever there is government involvement in a business venture,” he said.

In terms of the agreement entered into on November 20 last year between Zimplats and Implats, Implats would be making an offer to minorities at Australian $4,08 per share (A$4,08). The offer document from Implats and the Zimplats recommendation to shareholders was sent to shareholders in July.

Ncube said this offer was too low.

“We believe it should be in the region of A$5,” he said. “We wrote to Zimplats informing them of our intention and now we will be following up with the actual documentation.”

While refusing to disclose his team for the deal, Ncube said Barbican would include some “international institutional investors” in their bid.

“We were asked to provide details on how we would raise the required US$130 million,” he said. “This is the value of the total shares. I am going in with a strong team.”

Barbican made another hostile bid when it swallowed Haddon & Sly Ltd (Haddons) to list on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

In the six months to June 30 the group achieved an operating profit before tax of $750,3 million compared to $82,5 million for the same period to June 2002, in historical terms. This was a growth of 809%.

The earnings per share grew by 847% from 48,59 cents for the six months ended June 2002 to 460,07 cents for the six months ended June 30. The company’s balance sheet has grown substantially during the past six months from total assets of $9,6 billion in December 2002 to $20,3 billion in June. Most of this growth was derived from growth in investments.

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