Government to unbundle Noczim

Nqobile Bhebhe

GOVERNMENT plans to unbundle the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) into two separate companies and says it will not place restrictions on partners willing to invest in the new firms.

Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma told businessdigest this week that the new firms would be open to both local and foreign investors.

“In terms of partners being local or foreign it’s immaterial … all we want are investors and their money.  A business venture with sound capital is far better operational wise than one with no money,” said Mangoma.

He said no timeframe had been set on the search for partners saying “government is going ahead with the project at the same time seeking partners”.

Mangoma said “several companies have shown interest in the project” but were still to submit bids.

Government in December said it would be selling at least 10 parastatals to foreign investors and that it would be willing to sell stakes way above the statutory ceiling of 49%.

The targeted parastatals include Air Zimbabwe, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Noczim, Agribank, Cold Storage Company, the Grain Marketing Board, NetOne and TelOne.

The process to unbundle Noczim started on January 1, but Mangoma would not reveal the names the two entities would assume.

Noczim was created to be Zimbabwe’s sole purchaser and supplier of petroleum products and its unbundling is meant to inject efficiency in the national fuel procurement system and to attract investors to the oil industry.

Since last year government has been working on plans to transform Noczim into a regulatory board, shedding its fuel distribution role while eliminating the conflict of roles by separating regulatory functions from service provision.

Under the new structure, one entity would solely be responsible for national fuel depots and infrastructure, and the major task would be managing the importation of petroleum products through different modes, among them the Beira pipeline.

The second firm would be in full-time fuel retailing.

Several players in the oil sector have been calling for an overhaul of Noczim to transform it into a regulatory board overseeing the petroleum industry instead of maintaining its dual role of importing and distribution fuel while at the same time controlling competition.

This gave it an inordinate advantage over private players who would also pay it for using the Harare-Feruka-Beira pipeline.