Old Mutual to sell 51 pct of Zimbabwe unit

Old Mutual will sell 51 percent of its Zimbabwe unit to local investors, to meet rules on black ownership in the southern African nation, state media said on Friday.\r\n

Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Savior Kasukuwere told the state-owned Herald newspaper that Old Mutual Zimbabwe had submitted proposals to sell the stake over the next five years.

The company will sell 27 percent of its shares to its own employees, 17 percent to local pension funds and 7 percent to an empowerment trust, the newspaper said.

"We are quite happy with the Old Mutual plan on how they intend to achieve indigenisation," Kasukuwere told the newspaper.

Old Mutual Zimbabwe, one of Zimbabwe’s largest listed firms, declined to say what kind of proposal it had made to the government. 

"We have not received any formal response to our proposals," Luke Ngwerume, the managing director of the local unit, said in an e-mailed response to Reuters questions.

"Naturally our proposals would seek to protect the interests of our various stakeholders including the shareholders, staffers and our clients."

Under empowerment rules published this year, foreign-owned firms, including banks and mines, are required to submit plans to sell 51 percent of their shares to locals within five years.

Some of the foreign-owned companies that will be affected by the law include the world’s top two platinum producers, Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum, and Rio Tinto, which operates a diamond mine in Zimbabwe.

Analysts have warned the empowerment drive pursued by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party would hurt investment in an economy recovering from a decade of decline.