AfrAsia boss visits Zimbabwe
By Eric Chiriga
HARARE – AfrAsia Bank Limited (ABL) Mauritius chief executive James Benoit was recently in Zimbabwe to “firm up” discussions on the hunt for a new managing director for AfrAsia Bank Zimbabwe (ABZ) and strategies to solve the banking unit’s solvency challenges, Business Live has established.
The development comes amid growing speculation that ABL has been reluctant to inject further capital into the retail unit due to reservations about AfrAsia Zimbabwe Holdings Limited (AZHL)’s stewardship under chief executive (CE) Lynn Mukonoweshuro.
Although the group’s corporate communications executive Sekai Chitemere did not confirm nor deny that Benoit was in the country, she said “ABL as the major shareholder of AZHL is regularly in Zimbabwe to assist its operations on an on-going basis”.
While market reports claim ABL prefers a new leadership — not linked to AZHL’s founder Nigel Chanakira — Chitemere insisted that the Mauritian shareholder has faith in Mukonoweshuro.
“ABL has full confidence in the management of… Mukonoweshuro who remains in charge of the business,” she said.
Mukonoweshuro has been AZHL’s CE since February 2010.
Last year, AfrAsia increased its stake in AZHL to above 50 percent from 35 percent — acquired in January 2012 in a $9,5 million deal — after acquiring a 30 percent shareholding previously held by Chanakira before his exit from the group.
Though ABZ is currently facing serious solvency challenges, resulting in the institution limiting depositors’ withdrawals, Chitemere said ABL remained committed to the Zimbabwean operation.
“Working closely with the regulatory authorities, various options are currently being explored by both AZHL and ABL to address the current liquidity challenges facing AfrAsia Bank Zimbabwe Limited.
“Stakeholders will be updated when there are material developments,” she said, but did not disclose how much the group immediately required to address the liquidity crisis.
Upon acquiring a stake in AZHL, ABL injected $10 million to boost ABZ — formerly Kingdom Bank Limited — liquidity.
It also reshuffled AZHL’s board, which saw the departure of chairperson Sibusisiwe Bango.
The group, with total assets of about $800 million, then committed to lead a capital raising exercise for $20 million and later another $80 million.
Chitemere said AZHL is finalising the recruitment process of a substantive managing director for ABZ.
In April, ABZ’s managing director Tineyi Mawocha resigned, barely three months after his appointment.
Last month, Business Live reported that former BancABC managing director Hashmon Matemera was one of the candidates for the ABL top post.
Mukonoweshuro said, at the time, they were “still conducting interviews”.
“…at the moment, we have narrowed down to top two candidates and we will make an announcement as soon as we have gone through the final rounds of interviews, secured Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe approval and have an accepted offer by a chosen candidate,” she said. Daily News