1 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Barclays Bank to Breathe Life Into Companies

Barclays Bank Zimbabwe says it will access up to US$100 million in offshore credit lines to support businesses in Zimbabwe.

Speaking at an Imara Investment Conference in the capital last week, Barclays Bank managing director, George Guvamatanga said the funds should be availed by the end of June.

"Banks will lend to companies that have demonstrably strong cash flows. Some companies have been able to access loans at reasonable rates, so it's not always a matter of liquidity but of leadership," he told delegates.

The bank accessed the offshore credit lines in the range of 8% to 9%.

Zimbabwe continues to reel under an acute liquidity crunch which has led to many companies downscaling operations or winding up as the difficult economic terrain takes its toll.

The bank is presently involved in lending out to viable sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, mining and retail.

Last year, the bank brought in over US$40 million as lines of credit into the economy in a bid to boost its underwriting capacity and provide support for viable businesses in the country.

"The economic landscape requires decisive intervention to enhance investor confidence, promote local production and contain the imports bill," said Guvamatanga.

He explained that investment has gone into places which are sometimes ravaged by civil wars and many other challenges, but Zimbabwe, despite being peaceful, has not attracted investment.

"It's very simple, capital does not look for stability, capital looks for clarity and that's what we have been sharing with the relevant stakeholders here, that it's crucial for us to provide clarity," he said, adding that foreign lenders look at country risk premium.

Turning to indigenisation, Guvamatanga said during his tenure as the former Bankers Association president, various discussions had been held with the new indigenisation and finance ministers.

"We have a clear understanding on how this should progress for the financial sector. By the third quarter of this year, these issues should be resolved and finalised," he said.

The indigenisation policy has caused a great deal of consternation among international investors who have chosen to adopt a wait and see attitude fearing expropriation of their capital.

However, government continues to emphasise that a "one size fits all" approach will not be used in every sector of the economy.

With regard to reviving the interbank market so as to boost liquidity, Guvamatanga said final touches are being put on that facility to allow broader participation in the financial sector.

Government and the Africa Export and Import Bank (Afreximbank) earlier this year availed a US$100 million facility, with Afreximbank providing the guarantee.

He said that the interbank facility was predominantly in terms of bilateral arrangements ever since the inception of a dollarised environment.

"It was concentrated in the middle tier. This facility will allow all participants to have interbank market access, the paperwork is being finalised," he said.

Under an interbank market, banks extend loans to each other for a specified term. Most interbank loans mature within one week or less with most of them maturing overnight. These loans are made at the interbank rate, also commonly referred to as the overnight rate should the term of the loan be overnight.

Under this facility, banks borrow and lend money in the interbank market in order to manage liquidity as well as satisfy regulations such as reserve requirements.

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