Delta in bid to Dispose of Ariston

ZIMBABWE Stock Exchange-listed Delta Beverages Group is now talking to Econet Wireless to swap its Ariston Holdings shares for the mobile operator’s shares in Mutare Bottling (Pvt) Company, businessdigest established this week.


This comes after an Ariston management-led consortium reportedly failed to secure funding from local banks to acquire a 40% stake in the premier horticultural company.

Delta management is keen on getting rid of Ariston, a business it now considers a departure from its core beverage business, but cannot find a buyer for its cast away asset.

The group bought Ariston a few years ago to tap into its foreign currency reserves at the height of an economic crisis charecterised by an acute foreign exchange shortage.

Analysts say the deal would complement Delta’s core business — beverages and beer — that requires bottling while ridding itself of a non-core asset at the same time.

A huge cash vault saw Econet snap up 63% of the Mutare Bottling Company in 2007, through a wholly owned Pentamed Investments, according to the mobile operator’s 2008 annual report.

People close to the developments said Delta chief executive officer Joe Mutizwa and other top shareholders this week reviewed an offer from an unidentified South African investor.

The investor, sources say, offered to pay US4 cents per share, a figure Delta and other top Ariston shareholders felt was too low.

Delta and other shareholders hoped to sell for US6 cents but it is not clear if the offer will be sweetened.
“Delta got an offer for US4 cents a share but I doubt that the investor will raise his offer. This deal could go through at say US6 cents a share. But Delta is considering other things,” said a source close to the negotiations.

Mutizwa this week denied getting an offer for Ariston’s shares from a South African investor or to Econet for as possible share swap in its bottling business.

Ariston CEO Kumbirai Katsande was reportedly heading a management consortium to buy Delta’s US$3,2 million stake in Ariston.

Katsande and a handful of management members were in talks with local banks to raise the funding needed for the 40% equity the beverage company holds in Ariston.

Delta made an unsolicited offer for at least 60% of Ariston’s total issued shares in 2006 but managed to snap up 40%.

Delta, sources said, resolved to dispose of its equity in Ariston to concentrate on its beer and carbonated drinks manufacturing.     

Ariston is a horticultural firm and is organised in five operating divisions: Southdown Estates, which is engaged in growing and manufacturing of tea, coffee, macadamia nuts and bananas; Claremont Estates, which is engaged in the growing of pome and stone fruit, breeder protected field flowers and trout; Kent Estate, which is engaged in the growing of roses, poultry and livestock; FAVCO, which is engaged in the distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the Capital Tea Company, which is engaged in the packaging and distribution of tea and coffee.

BY CHRIS MURONZI

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