By Alois Vinga
LISTED financial services concern, ZB Financial Holdings (ZBFH) has hailed measures implemented by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) allowing bureau de changes to sell foreign currency.
The financial institution said the move will close the gap between official and parallel market rates.
Presenting the ZBFH trading update for the first quarter ended March 31, 2021, company secretary Tinashe Masiiwa applauded the RBZ for taking measures that will go a long way in harmonizing the two exchange rates.
“In what is expected to become a boost to the market, RBZ undertook to sell foreign currency to bureau de changes, in order to improve the availability of currency to small-scale players and individuals. This has the potential of shedding off the exchange rate differential between the official and parallel markets which is currently at about 40%,” he said.
Currently, the official exchange rate is standing at $84.65 against US$1 while the readily available parallel market rate is at $100.
Masiiwa noted the RBZ’s foreign exchange auction trading system, introduced by the RBZ in June 2020 had brought about a modicum of stability in the local currency which depreciated on the official market by only 3.196% from $81.71 on 4 January 2021 to $84.40 on 31 March 2021 against the US dollar.
“On the back of the stabilising exchange rate, inflation trended downwards during the first quarter. The year-on-year inflation slowed from the 362.63% recorded in January 2021 to 240.55% in March 2021.
“The official month-on-month inflation averaged 3.7% during the quarter under review compared to 3.9% for the previous quarter under review, compared to 3.9% for the previous quarter,” he said.
Masiiwa added the equities market registered a 59% increase in market capitalisation from $317 billion at the beginning of the quarter to $503 billion at the end of March 2021 while on a year-on-year basis, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) market capitalisation registered a 16% growth.
During the period under review, ZBFH registered a 58% reduction in exchange income while total income for the first quarter of 2021 at $1.3 billion reduced by 10% compared to $1.5 billion posted in the first quarter of 2020.
Foreign exchange earnings dominated total income in 2020 driven by the wide movement in the official exchange rate as authorities attempted to stabilise exchange rates.
Net interest and trading income increased by 194% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020 on the back of a 15% increase in the loan book and trading assets. An average interest margin of 27% was achieved for the quarter showing an increase from 15% during the first quarter of 2020.