AAG demands stake in Lafarge

ZIMBABWE business pressure group, Affirmative Action Group (AAG), has demanded that local entities must be given first priority in acquiring a stake in Lafarge Zimbabwe, ahead of a global Chinese firm that has already expressed interest.

This comes as Holcim Limited is looking to sell its Zimbabwe unit, Lafarge, as part of the world’s largest cement company continuing sell-off of assets globally.

AAG vice president Munyaradzi Kashambe said local Zimbabweans have the financial muscle to acquire a stake in most firms that are being disposed of, but were often overlooked.

“We want to take cognisant of our President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s 2030 vision. President is advocating for the locals, especially the young people, to participate in the economic emancipation of this country. He told us that he wants to see young people and business people coming up with consortiums and big businesses. When our president came into office he went around the world marketing Zimbabwe.

“We heard that Lafarge Zimbabwe whose original owners are French under the company Holcim is selling or has already sealed a deal with another foreign company from China. We would have wanted the owners to give local players first preference in acquiring a controlling stake in the company. This is because we have business people with the financial muscle to take up the stake,” he said.

“As Zimbabwe businesspeople I can assure you that we have the propensity and the capacity to acquire Lafarge not on a grabbing basis but on business bases, win situation. The amount that we heard which the French company is asking for as Zimbabweans we have got banks that we can engage, we have got businesspeople who can invest in this,” Kashamba added.

Kashambe said they don’t want to interfere in the private sale of Lafarge but they demand their stake as Zimbabweans.

“We have got the money and the resources. We have another case study Barclays Zimbabwe was sold to Zambia without the Zimbabweans participation and as AAG we need to go back to the negotiating table and push for the first preference for Zimbabweans.

“We also noted that China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt has also snapped up Arcadia hard-rock lithium mine Prospect Resources lithium mine in Acturus. What we are saying is that we would want a situation where Zimbabweans should be considered first,” he further said.

Lafarge Zimbabwe is one of the country’s biggest cement companies, and has been increasing investment to take advantage of rising cement demand.

A likely buyer of Larfage Cement is Huaxin Cement, one of China’s biggest cement companies. Huaxin bought Lafarge Zambia and Lafarge Cement Malawi late last year.

In June last year, Huaxin bought 75 percent of Lafarge Zambia for US$150 million and spent US$10 million to buy Pan African Cement from Lafarge Cement Malawi.

In 2020, Huaxin also bought Tanzania’s Marvini Limestone for US$145 million, its first investment in Africa.

Last year, Holcim sold part of its Ghana business and disposed of its Brazil unit for US$1 billion.

In Zimbabwe, the past year has been one of a difficult phase for the cement manufacturer. Due to the increased activity in the construction sector, Larfage laid out a US$25 million expansion plan to meet growing demand for building materials.

But the company also faced rising costs, the surprise departure of its chief executive and a plant accident that stopped cement production for a quarter.

In September, CEO Precious Nyika stepped down after the company took a fine of the equivalent of US$1 million for exchange control violations. She had been in the job for just over a year. Geoffrey Ndugwa, who has been with the company since he joined it in 2001, replaced Nyika in December.