Gono's super-bank ZABG fails to publish Year End Results

HARARE,- The Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group failed to publish year-end results last month amid reports that PricewaterhouseCooper has refused to certify its financials as it is bankrupt.

PwC managing partner Tinashe Rwodzi declined to comment on the issue, citing client confidentiality. Bank spokeswoman Theresa Munjoma confirmed ZABG was hobbled by the return of the assets of Barbican, Royal and Trust banks, hence its failure to meet the mandatory deadlines for results publication.

“The unbundling affects balance sheet items and publication of the bank’s financials will be done when the exercise is complete,” she said, adding that Stephen Gwasira’s bank had also completed reorganising its branch network countrywide.

Although several other banks have published results by the March 31 deadline, the Reserve Bank did not reply to queries on what action it would take against the distressed bank. Central bank governor Gideon Gono created ZABG seven years ago under the guise of preserving the assets of its three antecedent banks, but it has always been dogged by underfunding and a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that the takeover of the assets of Royal, Barbican and Trust was illegal.
Following the court order and ZABG’s progressive descent into disaster, Gono was compelled to hand back the banks’ assets in August last year.

Around the time, two Deloitte & Touche Corporate Finance and RBZ verification reports revealed that the bank had debts of nearly $15-million, which precipitated PwC’s refusal to certify the stricken bank’s numbers, as liabilities far outstrip assets. While Gwasira and his team were installed “to turnaround” the fortunes of the bank, the Deloitte report said the amalgamation was in financial ruin owing to several inept decisions and inadequate oversight mechanisms.

The team, for example, inflated the three former independent banks’ head-count by 300 staffers – out of Royal and Trust’s combined 232 employees at closure – while also acquiring a record 132 cars in five years.

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At a time when the wider financial sector was beginning to feel the pinch of a dollarised economy, the ZABG hierarchy awarded themselves generous salaries, with Gwasira netting $16000 a month.

The hefty wage bill and costs, which further bled the bank, saw ZABG fail to pay for utilities, including electricity, rental and telephones for its various offices. It also owed the National Social Security and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority vast amounts in staff pensions, and other taxes.

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This dire financial state not only showed how Barbican, Royal and Trust banks’ inherited assets were wrecked and shrunk, but also brought into question whether the new team brought in any new and serious business, if not fresh capital, at all.

At closure, Royal and Trust were jointly ranked number five in terms of trading market share, but the Deloitte report showed they had slipped to a lowly number 13 as at September 2009. The two also had an 11% market share.

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Meanwhile, the chief executive of TN Holdings group has castigated Zimbabweans for shunning local banks and preferring to open accounts with foreign owned banks.

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Speaking at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Midlands Chamber annual general meeting, Nyambirai admitted that local banks were struggling due to less clients compared to the foreign owned banks.

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He told Captains of Industries that even big co-operatives headed by local people prefer to bank with foreign owned banks.

“ While Zimbabweans head most of the big co-operatives that have more money, it is unfortunate that they prefer banking with foreign owned banks rather than local banks which according to statistics give the least loans, ” Nyambirai said.
He said this disparity had contributed to local banks failing to give loans to Zimbabweans as they did not have the cash as most of their clients are those that immediately withdraw their money as deposits are made.

TN holdings founder also moaned the absence of a functioning central bank saying the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is not performing its role of “ lender of the last resort ” hence manufacturing and struggling Zimbabwean companies after failing to access loans from banks have nowhere else to turn to.

“ The RBZ in the past was the lender of last resort but now they can not help collapsing companies. While governments in other countries chip in to help big collapsing companies to be back on their feet, what has the government of Zimbabwe done to help companies that are struggling, ” asked Nyambira.

He advised that for companies to stay afloat, they need to re-strategise adding that companies had to look for alternative ways of raising capital giving an example of groups pulling their resources together.

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Captains of Industries complained about the lack of capital to inject into their businesses and said they were worried with the culture of banks of no longer giving interests to clients but instead ate from people’s savings.