Monday, February 10, 2014
(NEWZIMBABWE, REUTERS) Nhema: Flexibility on banks only, not mines
ZIMBABWE is not softening its drive to force foreign-owned mines to sell majority stakes to blacks, but could be flexible with banks if they agree to lend more, especially to young people, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
The government has said it is reviewing black economic empowerment deals agreed in the last two years, raising hopes among investors that Harare could roll back on its demands that foreign-owned firms sell at least 51% shares to locals.
But Francis Nhema, the new youth and economic empowerment minister said those reviews did not signal a major policy shift toward mining companies.
"Government is not letting up and is in fact saying let all companies take note," Nhema told Reuters.
"Most of the mines are asking questions, they want us to confirm that it is a win-win situation and that they are not disadvantaged."
But he was more flexible over foreign-owned banks, saying the government would want to see them increase their lending.
A team set up by the government in 2010 recommended that locals could own up to 40 percent shares in foreign-owned financial services firms while the central bank has urged caution when it comes to banks.
"The banks, we have asked them to come forward and we are looking at that sectoral recommendation. There is no one-size- fits-all approach. Every sector is different," he said.
Foreign banks active in Zimbabwe include units of Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc as well as South Africa's Standard Bank.