Mixed fortunes for Astra

Ngoni Chanakira

ASTRA Industries Ltd (Astra), an engineering and construction industry powerhouse, experienced mixed fortunes last year caused by the ups and downs in the building sector.


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Outgoing managing director Nick Nyandoro, in his last annual report, said volumes of paint coatings at Astra Paints and sales for the year ended August 31 at Astra Steel had declined.



Reviewing operations, Nyandoro said the company witnessed continued challenges on issues such as inflation, depreciation of the local currency which in turn forced the entry of expensive inputs into the economy and contradiction in performance of such sectors as construction and general industrial.


“The new minimum lending rates surged to levels of 90%,” Nyandoro said. “These increases resulted in reduced new investment activities in sectors that the group units support. Despite all this the group’s performance was commendable.”


Following completion of the unbundling exercise in the year 2001, the group undertook a strategic reidentification plan for the three business units.

The units are Astra Paints, Astra Chemical and Astra Steel (Pvt) Ltd.


Nyandoro said the plans clearly spelt out the purpose, vision, business principles and the key performance areas for each of the businesses.

“Management at each of these units was tasked to implement the agreed strategies,” he said.


Volumes of paint coatings manufactured during the year declined by 17% compared to the same period last year.


Sales to the retail market continued to firm with a contribution of 60% of overall performance.


“The decision to manufacture the majority of our products at the Bulawayo plant weighed in positively as space utilisation and benefits of location of the resin plant were fully exploited,” Nyandoro said. “Modifications to the new equipment purchased during the previous year entailing automated material lifting assembly, direct and dedicated borehole water supply, mounting the kettle on load cells for continuous weighing and the setting up of multiple filling points resulted in increased daily water-based paints output by 100%.”


Turnover was up 289% and profit after tax improved by 384% on last year.

Nyandoro said at Astra Steel volume sales for the year under review declined due to the depressed construction industry, mining and general engineering.


Sales for the period under review were 239% above those attained during the previous year, with operating costs rising 284% and profit after tax being 358% above the previous year.


On September 1 last year, Henry Dunn Steel and Engineering Supplies changed its name to Astra Steel and Engineering Supplies.


Over the years the company has changed its name from Henry Dunn Steel to Henry Dunn Steel and Engineering Supplies.


The company began in 1946 as a reinforcing steel sub-contractor by Henry Dunn.


Acquired by the Astra Holdings group of companies in 1987, the former Henry Dunn Steel Company took over some of the operations of the disbanded Astra Engineering in 1996 and became known as Henry Dunn Steel and Engineering Supplies.


“A new name does not mean a change in the services and products provided by Henry Dunn Steel and Engineering Supplies,” a spokesman for the company said then.


After the unbundling exercise of the former Astra group in 2001, Astra Steel and Engineering Supplies became part of the new Astra Industries Ltd in the same stable with such household names as Astra Paints and Astra Chemical.


Astra Industries Ltd is quoted on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and is capitalised to the tune of $21 billion.


The changes, officials said, would give the company the opportunity to rebrand and reposition itself, as well as to be in line with the new vision and purpose of Astra Industries.


“The whole exercise will benefit all its stakeholders in the building and construction industry, mining, agriculture and engineering and the informal sector,” a spokesperson said.


Astra employs 200 individuals some of whom are on-site with contracts.

There have been several management and board changes to the Astra group as it unbundled to concetrate on three core divisions.