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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Zimbabwe proposes black-run firms
President Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe aims to give more ownership to indigenous people
President Robert Mugabe's government has published a bill to move majority control of "public companies and any other business" to black Zimbabweans.

The goal is to ensure at least a 51% shareholding by indigenous black people in the majority of businesses.

Critics say it could hurt investor confidence in Zimbabwe, suffering from the world's highest inflation and food, fuel and foreign currency shortages.

Now the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill will go to parliament.

'Financing of acquisitions'

It is expected to back the bill, which stipulates that no company restructuring, merger or acquisition can be approved unless 51% of the firm goes to indigenous Zimbabweans.

The empowerment bill says that "indigenous Zimbabwean" is anyone disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on race grounds before independence in 1980.

It also provides for the establishment of an empowerment fund which will offer assistance to the "financing of share acquisitions" from the public-owned firms or assist in "management buy-ins and buy-outs."

And all government departments and statutory bodies will be asked to obtain 51% of their goods and services from businesses in which controlling interest is held by indigenous Zimbabweans.

Dual listings

"For a start, it's not very clear how they are going to implement this, but going by their record it could be another chaotic and disastrous exercise," Zimbabwean economic consultant John Robertson told Reuters news agency.

"Those [companies] already here are likely to hold back on any expansion programmes, while possible new foreign investors are likely to also hold back to watch how this is going to work."

Some firms dually listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and London Securities Exchange firms include Old Mutual, NMB bank and Hwange.

Multi-national firms that may be affected by the new policy include Barclays Bank, Bindura Nickel Corporation and miner Rio Zim.




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