Zim central to BAT global strategy: MD

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BRITISH American Tobacco (BAT) says Zimbabwe remains part of its global strategy and is planning to increase capital investment in the country.
“We have got no intentions of leaving Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is the key supplier of leaf for our global operations,” managing director, Lovemore Manatsa told journalists during a media briefing last Friday, debunking recent media reports that the company was scaling down operations in the country.
He said through the company’s partners, it was growing about  27 million kilogrammes of tobacco annually with the bulk of it going to BAT global operations in Europe and South Africa.
“Zimbabwe from that point of view is strategic for BAT global and follows therefore that from a manufacturing or commercial side of the business, we are here to stay,” he said.
The company, ranks among the top 10 performers on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in terms of capitalisation and enjoys a market share of 79 percent.
It produces an average of 130 million cigarettes per month with a capacity utilisation of 65 percent.
Finance director, Peter Doona said in the last five years the company had invested over $5 million in capital expenditure and was planning to spend more, although he gave no figures.
He said around 50 percent of investment had been made in manufacturing.
“Going forward into 2014, our intention is to significantly increase our capital expenditure and the key focus areas are going to be further enhancements in manufacturing, health and safety and monitoring and distribution,” he said.
The company, which employees 170 people has complied with the indigenisation law which requires foreign owned firms to cede 51 percent of their shares to local blacks.
BAT International Holdings UK Limited holds 42.98 percent in the company while Old Mutual Life Assurance holds 11.97. Employees own a combined 20.76 percent while the rest is held mainly by pension funds.
“Over the next three years starting with December 2013, employees will be cashing in that five percent in real value,” Manatsa said, adding that this would be paid from the company’s dividends.