Kingstons set to lose Headquarters
By Cyril Zenda
Kingstons Holdings Limited, a loss-making parastatal that falls under the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, is on the verge of losing its headquarters — Kingstons House — in central Harare.
This is after ZB Bank attached the multi-storey property over a long standing debt of over US$300 000. The building, which has retail shops and office space in the busy city centre, is set to go under the hammer tomorrow.
Kingstons, one of many mismanaged companies controlled by government, is being hotly pursued by more than 100 creditors owed in excess of US$5 million. This is the situation affecting many of government’s companies.
It has been tottering on the edge due to mismanagement and an out-dated business model, which has found the going tough in a market that has seen the emergence of aggressive private players who have brought new innovation in the business of selling books, stationery and related products.
Kingstons’ core business is selling books, magazines, newspapers and a variety of educational and other forms of stationery. It used to dominate the market through a network of countrywide branches.
The advent of new technologies caught the firm in a time-warp, leaving it gasping for dear oxygen in a cut-throat market where it competes with new players such as Rank Zimbabwe, First Pack Stationery, Gainsborough Stationers and Papyrus, among other smaller players.
Kingstons has tried to diversify its operations towards the information and technology sector in order to make itself relevant in a fast changing market — including going into broadcasting — but all its plans have remained a graveyard of good intent due to a severe lack of working capital.
Among other Kingstons’ creditors is the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority which is owed over US$500 000, Old Mutual Zimbabwe, which is owed over US$300 000 and the National Social Security Authority, which is owed over US$200 000.
The company, which used to have more than two dozen branches countrywide, has in the recent past been evicted from rented premises that include the CABS Centre, Pearl Building, Westgate Shopping Centre, High Glen, Chitungwiza Town Centre, Pearl Building (Mutare) Pearl Building in Gweru, Bulawayo Centre and from premises in Rusape, Gwanda and Kwekwe.
The latest landlord to give Kingstons the boot was the National Railways of Zimbabwe, which last month obtained a court order to evict two of its operations from premises in Bulawayo after outstanding rentals had ballooned to more than US$30 000.
During his tenure at the information ministry, Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, was making spirited efforts to make sure that government took over the debts of loss-making parastatals under his ministry.
These included Kingstons, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and State-run news agency, New Ziana. Financial Gazette