MINING giant Lonrho has given Zimbabwe the green light to sell part of its shareholding in the pipeline company, Petrozim, so long as government can pay off directors’ fee
s and loans amounting to US$30 million.
Lonrho owns 50% of the Mutare/Harare pipeline and has pre-emptive rights in any proposed change in its shareholding. The government, through the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim), controls the other half but would like to sell 50% of that portion (25% of Petrozim) to a Libyan company, Tamoil.
Industry sources this week said Lonrho had told government at a recent meeting that it was willing to divest from the pipeline so long as it was paid what was due to it. Noczim, whose creditworthiness has continued to plummet in the face of increased indebtedness, cannot raise the required sum to pay off Lonrho.
Noczim is saddled with huge debts to Libyan Arab Bank (US$43 million), Tamoil (US$67 million), Independent Petroleum Group of Kuwait (US$65 million) and Engen of South Africa (US$25 million).
Two months ago, the government agreed with a Tamoil delegation to Zimbabwe that the total value of the pipeline was US$60 million. The remaining sticking point in the transfer of 25% of the shareholding to the Libyans was the go-ahead from Lonrho who are divesting from Zimbabwe’s mining and manufacturing industries.
The sources said if government fails to raise the US$30 million to pay off Lonrho, the Libyans would swoop on the shareholding to gain a controlling stake. Tamoil would like to acquire the shareholding to form a joint venture company, Tamoil-Zimbabwe.
It has also been learnt that Lonrho would like the government to clarify the results of multinational company, Engen’s bid for part of Noczim’s shareholding in Petrozim. The sources said Lonrho could cede its shareholding to Engen who are already established here.
l Meanwhile, fuel marketers have started moving fuel from direct imports through the pipeline as government procrastinates on a new fuel policy.
The sources said Noczim was handling fuel on behalf of the marketers from Beira in Mozambique to storage tanks at Msasa.
Multinational companies are allegedly watching from the sidelines in anticipation of a new energy policy.
The pipeline has in the past been used to move fuel imported by government through Noczim. Private players normally use road tankers, which are more expensive.
The sources said the use of the pipeline should cut costs for the marketers, which is expected to lower the price of the commodity to consumers. Marketers currently sell fuel at between $1 500 and $2 000 a litre through a coupon system.