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Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe exits Astra Holdings
18/07/2013 00:00:00
by Business Reporter
 
Asset disposal ... RBZ chief, Gideon Gono
 
RELATED STORIES
Astra Holdings turnover down 2pc

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), which has been offloading stakes in several companies, sold its majority interest in the listed Astra Holdings on Thursday.

Some 88,5  million shares, representing the RBZ’s 63.25% interest in the company, were taken up by a consortium called Hemister at a price of 6.2 cents in a block deal on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).

Through the Finance Trust of Zimbabwe (FTZ), the central bank has had controlling shareholding in several companies, including Thuli Coal, a mining firm in the southern parts of the country, tractor dealer, Tractive Power Holdings and Astra.

The bank announced in 2011 that it would be disposing of its interests in these firms to concentrate on its core business.

But while Tractive Power has been taken over by the listed agro-conglomerate, Zimplow Limited, the other companies had until now found no takers.

Last month Astra said discussions between FTZ and potential investors had been on-going and could be concluded in three months.

Although the firm did not disclose the nature of the negotiations, or who they were talking to, a local consortium was believed to be on the verge of acquiring the company.

“The process by the major shareholder, Finance Trust of Zimbabwe, to dispose their entire stake in the company is on-going and may be concluded in the second half of this financial year,” Astra said last week.

“It is anticipated that the economic conditions would remain difficult in the short to medium term. The board and management would focus on cost containment measures   and growing the Astra brand to ensure the group remains in a profitable position.”

Management said the introduction of new products by Astra Industries Limited had paid off.
The group had committed more funding into marketing as part of a strategy to consolidate its market share.

During the half-year to February 28, 2013, Astra achieved a US$496,952 after tax profit, from US$751 412 during the same period last year.

The company said it planned to grow revenues by spreading its footprint into the region.

Cost containment measures would also be implemented during the second half of the financial year to improve profitability.

Revenue increased by four percent to US$14 million during the review period, from US$13,5 million during the comparative period last year.



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Aggregate sales volumes grew by three percent over the same period last year.

Gross margins, however, declined from 35 percent last year to 33 percent this year.

Operating profit, at US$615,875, was below the prior comparable period by 44 percent.

During the second half of its financial year, Astra said it would implement stricter cost controls, at the same time watching its debtors’ book.


 
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