The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) and Mabentu Consortium of South Africa are headed for a major tussle over the control of Group Five's stake in Infralink, a special vehicle, created to collect toll fees at 10 toll plazas along Plumtree-Mutare Highway. This comes after Mabentu bought Group Five's Intertoll Africa, a company that owns Intertoll Zimbabwe, a firm that was created by Infralink together with Zinara on 30/70 percent shareholding basis respectively for the collection of toll fees and management of the rehabilitated highway.
Group Five has since been placed under liquidation after plunging into financial troubles.
Plumtree-Mutare Highway was rehabilitated using a 10-year-US$206 million loan facility secured from the Development Bank of South Africa in 2012.
The scope of works on the rehabilitation of the highway, which started during the inclusive Government era between Zanu-PF and two MDC formations, involved 50 percent resealing, 29 percent shoulder widening and surfacing (7m to 10m), 21 percent reconstruction in some sections and 9 percent state-of-the-art toll gates installation.
However, it emerged upon buying Intertoll Africa, sources say Mabenthu is now heading north, eyeing its new acquisition's business interests in Zimbabwe -- that is (has) the tolling deal with Zinara.
Some sources close to the deal said the contract was clear among parties (Group Five, Zinara and DBSA) that in case anything happens to Group Five leading to liquidation, Zinara was automatically empowered to take the stake.
As such, Zinara has reportedly contracted an international advisor to look into the matter including the acquisition of Group Five's Intertoll Africa by Mabentu and advise on the impact it has on the DBSA loan repayment and toll fees collections among other key issues.
Zinara is reportedly ready to take over the management of the key infrastructure to ensure the smooth running of the tolling facilities.
Said the source: "If another company takes over Intertoll stake, in this case Mabentu, they may have other interests. For easier administration and management of toll plazas and moving into the future, it's favourable that Zinara takes over Intertoll Zimbabwe.
"Besides, Infralink is owned by Zinara that has 70 percent stake."
This week Zinara's newly appointed board chairperson Engineer Michel Madanha, confirmed there were developments taking place and that the administration was prepared to take over and manage the tollgate business.
"The development will affect the Intertoll and Infralink relationship to the extent that Group Five interest is bought by any person other than Zinara, which is very unlikely as Zinara has first right of refusal.
"To this end Zinara has engaged a transactional advisor to consider all the options it has before it communicates its strategy on the impending disposal of shareholding in Infralink and sale of Intertoll Zimbabwe," he said.
Madanha confirmed that Mabentu was interested in having state in Intertoll Zimbabwe, but did not elaborate further.
"Yes, Group Five is in financial distress and is in the process of disposal and winding up operations.
"Intertoll Africa was bought by Mabentu Consortium of South Africa. Intertoll Zimbabwe is 100 percent owned by Intertoll Africa and Mabentu has expressed its intention to acquire the interest in Intertoll Zimbabwe subject to agreement by ZINARA and DBSA to the sale.
"Further Group Five would intent to sell its 30 percent non-participating shareholding in Infralink," he advised.