The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Probe Shakes BAT

TOBACCO processor BAT Zimbabwe's shares fell 12 percent yesterday after police launched investigations into allegations of industrial espionage levelled against the firm. After trades yesterday, BAT lost US50c from US400c with the industrial index falling 0,27 percent or 0,41 points to 148,83.

The company's market capitalisation dropped from US$73 million on Wednesday to about US$69,5 million.

Police said this week investigations into BAT operations were underway and that the main focus of the probe was on alleged smuggling of cigarettes to South Africa.

They added that the investigation was also targeted at allegations that BAT was behind the hijackings of trucks carrying cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

BAT has denied the allegations.

"BAT in response to recent allegations in the media, strongly denies any involvement in industrial espionage and any illegal activity that may be linked to other local tobacco manufacturers," said the company in a statement.

"As a company listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, in addition to our own internal governance on responsible market-place practices, we are confident that our business activities are ethical transparent and legitimate."

Meanwhile, trading on the stock market was generally positive with an improved total turnover of US$3,2 million.

Delta Corporation was the most liquid stock with over 1,2 million shares changing hands at US95c while 271 000 Econet shares were traded at US479,96c.

Delta, ZSE's largest company in value terms, announced this week beer prices had gone up by between US$0,05 and US$0,10 following an increase in excise duty.

The company also said it was certain it would meet demand during the festive season. PPC slightly recovered after gaining US1,01c to US206,01c, bringing its decline on year to date basis to 1,9 percent.

After complying with the indigenisation law, the company is looking at building a US$200 million cement plant in Mashonaland Central Province that would double its annual capacity to 1 million tonnes.

Aico Africa gained US1c to US9c and is down 52,63 percent since the beginning of the year.

RTG gained US0,10c to US2c after the company proposed a US$4,5 million rights offer.

Afre Corporation retreated US0,2c to US5,10c, bringing its year to date gain to 70 percent.

The group completed its rights offer, which saw the company raising US$8,6 million.

This resulted in NSSA, the underwriter raising its direct shareholding in Afre to 51 percent.

NSSA had a 21 percent direct shareholding in Afre. Indirectly, NSSA also holds some shares in Afre through Capital Bank, previously known as ReNaissance Merchant Bank. African Sun Limited declined US0,15c to US0,8c. Chief executive Dr Shingi Munyeza said the hospitality group has effectively turned the corner and is now poised to sustain its growth trajectory.

The company reported US$2,6 million full year profit to September this year from a loss of US$10,2 million loss made last year.

This was largely as a result of reduction of operating costs through retrenchments, significant growth in inbound visitors due to increased flight capacity and improvement in average daily rates following refurbishment of its hotels.

The mining index rebounded 0,62 points (0,95 percent) to close at 65,67 percent after Bindura added US0,07c to US1,27c. Falgold, Hwange and RioZim were unchanged.

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