GOVERNMENT will soon convene an investor conference as part of efforts to scout for a suitable investment partner for the revival of the moribund steelmaker, Ziscosteel.
This follows the closure of submissions of expressions of interest on Wednesday.
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that the Ziscosteel board will today give a briefing to Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza, in her capacity as chairperson of the inter-ministerial taskforce established to oversee the revival of the company.
Previous efforts to turn around once Africa’s largest integrated steel producer, suffered stillbirths, with the government terminating Essar Holdings’ US$750 million investment proposal for Ziscosteel in 2015. The Indian investor had committed to take over Ziscosteel’s debts, which stood at US$500 million owed to various creditors.
Over the following years, the government’s decision to transfer the US$225 million assets to ZimCoke for a song sparked a board dispute. ZimCoke paid ZW$1 million in May 2019 as a transaction fee to take over Ziscosteel’s signature coke ovens and an array of other assets from the integrated steelworks.
Under the latest revival plans, Ziscosteel public relations manager Patricia Muzenda this week outlined to the Independent plans government had put in place to identify a suitable suitor for the state enterprise, which would soon culminate in an all-stakeholders’ conference.
“The plan is to do a shortlist based on those who have submitted the expressions of interest and then hold an investor conference. Thereafter, the board will invite the companies to submit their bids and then select an investor,” she said.
Sources close to the process this week underscored that the expression of interest (EIO) to inject fresh investment capital into the embattled parastatal “had attracted interest from China, India and countries from the West”.
Nzenza confirmed that submissions of proposals closed on Wednesday this week, adding the Ziscosteel board was busy making reviews.
“We closed the expressions of interest yesterday (Wednesday). The board will take the next step to review EOIs and recommend to the taskforce that I chair,” she said in an interview yesterday.
Asked about the identity of some of the suitors, Nzenza said: “I do not know them as yet. I am waiting to be briefed in person tomorrow.”
In 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa agreed to the Ziscosteel Debt Assumption Bill enabling the government to take over its debt.
According to the schedule of the Act, Ziscosteel owes US$211 912 400 in external loans, US$6 095 620 to external suppliers, US$57 696 085 in domestic loans and US$219 113 219 to domestic suppliers, utilities and statutory obligations.
At the height of its operations, Ziscosteel used to employ an estimated 7 000 people, mostly drawn from surrounding areas.
Various downstream industries, which have since gone belly up, used to rely on Ziscosteel.