By John Kachembere
HARARE – Kingstons Holdings Limited (Kingstons) — a stationery group 51 percent owned by the government — is reportedly on the verge of collapse with debts amounting to over $5,3 million.
Since the introduction of the multi-currency system in 2009, dominated by the United States dollar, the group has struggled to remain afloat due to stiff competition and working capital constraints.
Sources close to the developments told BusinessDaily that the institution has been battling to pay workers for several months while bailiffs have been constantly knocking at its doors.
“Kingstons has a whopping 106 litigation cases at various stages in the courts. Currently all our vehicles and all the head office furniture were attached and is pending removal upon hearing of interpleaders,” said the insider.
The source said Kingstons owes tax collector Zimbabwe Revenue Authority approximately $500 000, Old Mutual $289 000 and $142 000 in contributions to the National Social Security Authority, among other creditors.
This comes as last week, the High Court ordered the sale of the stationery retailer’s commercial stands in a bid to recover $300 000 owed to ZB Bank. Stohill Properties (SP), a local realty firm, will on July 19 auction Kingstons’ two commercial stands to recover debts.
“Duly instructed by the Sheriff of the High Court of Zimbabwe, we will be offering the following immovable properties for sale by public auction: The defendant’s right and title relating to a certain piece of land situate in the district of Salisbury called stand 2428 Salisbury township measuring 7 575 English square feet,” SP said.
In 2010, Kingstons devised a strategy to diversify its interests away from selling book, magazines, newspapers and scholastics stationary to information and technology as well as entering the leasing business.
However, the initiative failed dismally spectacularly due to lack of working capital.
The group, sources say, used to have 24 branches across Zimbabwe, but has in the past year been evicted from rented premises at Cabs Centre, Pearl Building, Westgate, High Glen, Chitungwiza Town Centre, Pearl building in Mutare, Pearl in Gweru, Bulawayo Centre in Bulawayo and in Rusape, Gwanda and Kwekwe.
“The company is also facing possible eviction this month from Sam Levy in Harare, Old Mutual Chiredzi, Knight Frank in Bulawayo and in Marondera,” the insider said.
Efforts to get a comment from Kingstons’s acting chief executive Kiitumetsi Zawanda were fruitless by time of going to print as she had not responded to e-mailed questions sent to her a week earlier.
Kingstons is the holding company for Art Stationers, Kingstons Limited, Textbook Sales, Kingstons Properties, Queens Stationers, R Johnstone & Co and Kingstons Entertainment. Daily News