2011 in retrospect: A case of goodbye or good riddance?

The year 2011 got off to an interesting start with the rejection of ENG’S daring bid for a banking licence and ends with the emergence of CBZ as the most preferred commercial bank according to the recent Zimbabwe All Media Product Survey.

In between the intrigue involved retrenchments, de-specifications of bankers, a lone but notable curatorship, new credit facilities, new products and awards as testified below by the year’s financial sector highlights.

January
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) rejects ENG Capital’s application for a banking licence citing founding director Gilbert Muponda’s lack of legal standing to carry out any binding corporate activity as a specified person.

An independent arbitrator awards bank workers a 30% (down from the 115% originally demanded) pay hike backdated to July 2010, which bank employers immediately say they will contest.

The RBZ sends home 1 455 employees representing 75% of its staff in a $70 million retrenchment exercise, the single largest undertaken in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

February
The RBZ resumes its role of lender of last resort with effect from February 1 following earlier disbursement of $7 million by the Ministry of Finance. On February 21, Royal Bank Zimbabwe Limited resumes banking operations at its Takura House branch in Harare.

March
Minister of Finance Tendai Biti on March 16 warns that at least seven of the country’s banks are performing badly with three of them literally in “intensive care”, but declines to name them citing confidentiality though he indicates that one of them is “State-connected”.

Meanwhile Agribank obtains a six-year $30 million loan facility from the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa.


April

ZABG fails to publish year–end results following the return in 2010 of assets to Royal Bank, Barbican and Trust Bank. Muponda is de-specified in terms of Section 6 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 9:16).

May
Premier Banking Corporation Limited officially begins trading as Ecobank Zimbabwe Limited following its recent acquisition by Ecobank Transnational Incorporated.

AFRE executive chairman Patterson Timba resigns from the group as the RBZ launches investigations into what appear to be irregular inter-party transactions among companies linked to the financial services group.

RBZ announces intentions to dispose of assets consisting of shares it holds or controls in various listed and unlisted companies.


June

The RBZ places ReNaissance Merchant Bank Limited (RMB) under the management of a curator, Reggie Saruchera of Grant Thornton Camelsa, for a period of six months.

The Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers’ Union, the Bank Employers’ Association of Zimbabwe and the National Employment Council agree to withdraw litigation over a protracted sector salary review after reaching a deal under which the least paid bank worker would now earn $575.


July

CZI proposes for recapitalisation of the central bank to the tune of $100 million by December 2011 to enable it to carry out its supervisory and lender-of-last resort functions.

National Social Security Authority pegs the interest rate to be charged by banks on money it provides them for on-lending to companies at 15% with effect from August 2011, regardless of the loan tenure.

August

The Deposit Protection Bill, which seeks to protect the public — especially small depositors — from the worst consequences of bank failure, is passed in the Senate on August 2 without amendments pending Presidential assent.

TN Financial Holdings announces plans to introduce a new asset class that would allow the unbanked rural folk to deposit their cattle with the bank. On August 23 regional financial services firm ABC becomes the biggest banking group by market capitalisation on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

September

The USAid-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Competitiveness Programme hosts an Agricultural Finance Symposium on September 29 to engage stakeholders and map the way forward in respect of agricultural financing.

October

Tendai Biti launches a $40 million fund under the Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund for the revival of Bulawayo industries. The Kingdom Cell Card is crowned 2011’s Outstanding New Market Entry at the Marketers’ Association of Zimbabwe’s Marketers Convention Dinner hosted by CBZ Bank.

November

Former Intermarket Holdings Limited CEO Nicholas Vingirai is arrested on November 14 after spending seven years on the police wanted list since fleeing the country in 2004 and is granted $2 000 bail on November 16.

China Development Bank extends a dual tranche, $30 million line of credit through Infrastructural Development Bank of Zimbabwe to cater for the capital expenditure and working capital support needs of small to medium-sized enterprises.

December
The RBZ extends RMB’s Limited’s curatorship by a further three months to February 2 2012 to allow cases before the High Court to be heard as the bank sends workers on forced leave owing to viability problems.

As 2011 walks into the sunset, is it a case of goodbye or good riddance? Weigh in with your insights on omen.muza@gmail.com.

Omen N Muza is a banker and managing director of TFC Capital (Zimbabwe) (Pvt) Ltd who writes in his personal capacity.

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