South Africa's largest Company eyes Zimbabwe for growth

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa's biggest company by revenues, services group Bidvest posted a 10.1 percent rise in annual profit on Monday and said troubled Zimbabwe is among the places where it is looking for growth.

Chief Executive Brian Joffe said Bidvest was looking to invest and would raise about 600 million rand from selling its stake in waste management group Enviroserv, which has received a private equity buyout offer.

"We do have some plans and we feel there will be opportunities now for us to expand our group and make acquisitions, particularly in South Africa," Joffe told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Internationally speaking, we are looking to expand our food service business and we had one or two opportunities we are currently pursuing," he said.

Bidvest already operates in Zimbabwe and is optimistic about growth in the southern African country, which is mired in a political crisis and grappling with hyperinflation.

"It’s premature to talk about it," Joffe said. "We are still looking for opportunities in the U.S. We are definitely looking for opportunities in Zimbabwe."

He warned that economic conditions may worsen in 2009, but said the company was on track to double its size by 2010.

The company plans to list its Namibia business by the end of October, he said.

For the year to June 30, Bidvest posted headline earnings per share (EPS) of 10.68 rand, while revenue rose 5.5 percent to 110 billion rand.

Headline EPS is the key profit measure for South African companies and excludes non-trading, capital and certain extraordinary items.

Local currency weakness had a positive effect on the translation of offshore earnings, particularly in Bidvest Asia Pacific, the company said.

Shares in Bidvest were down 2.98 percent to 11.06 rand versus the JSE Top-40 Index which was off 2.04 percent by 0942 GMT.

Bidvest’s auto business, which is being affected by a slowdown in the global auto industry, reported a 2.6 percent rise in trading profit to 743 million rand.

Its unit Bidfreight posted a 17.2 percent rise in revenue to 22 billion rand and Bidserv posted a 22.5 percent rise to 6.4 billion rand.

The company said its U.K and Europe businesses have to contend with macroeconomic challenges, but said it sees growth opportunities in Australasia and New Zealand. With Reuters