BAT says not exiting Zimbabwe

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THE world’s second largest tobacco firm by sales, British American Tobacco (BAT, said Thursday it does not plan to leave or divest from Zimbabwe.
The company, which has over the last couple of years been attacked by President Robert Mugabe and also come under pressure over compliance with the country’s indigenisation laws, said it was committed to value addition of Zimbabwe’s major export crop.
“Our company plans forwards. As such, in 2014, as we have done for over 100 years, we remain firmly focused on value-addition to Zimbabwe’s most valuable agricultural commodity – Tobacco,” said Lovemore Manatsa, Managing Director of BAT Zimbabwe
Listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), BAT Zimbabwe is 56.95% owned by London-based BAT International with other major shareholders including Old Mutual which has a 19.1% stake.
However, authorities said the firm was only 6.22% indigenised, compelling management to come up with a plan to comply with empowerment laws that require foreign companies to localise ownership and control of at least 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations.
Under its plan, BAT said it would have to meet 36% indigenous status by October 2013, 46% by October 2014 and 51% by October 2015.
The company said it would also donate shares representing 10 percent of its issued share capital to an employee share ownership trust (ESOT) as part of the compliance plan.
“We are incredibly proud of our commitment to our people and the country at large. Empowerment is entrenched within the way we do business,” the company said in a statement Thursday.
“The BAT Zimbabwe Employee Share Ownership Trust and Tobacco Empowerment Trust evidence our investment in the sustainable development of our industry and country.
“We value all our trade partners in the formal and informal sector who have contributed so significantly to the growth of Zimbabwe’s economy and the successful performance of our business.
“BAT Zimbabwe aspires to be a constructive partner and corporate citizen in the national dialogue on how to attract and retain investment in our manufacturing sector and country.
“We believe we have a strong business in Zimbabwe because we uphold high standards of business conduct and this is recognised by all of our stakeholders.”Advertisement