Telecoms Billionaire Strive Masiyiwa Expands Into Zimbabwean Banking

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VENTURES AFRICA – Zimbabwe telecommunications billionaire and philanthropist, Strive Masiyiwa, has expanded his entrepreneurship into the banking stake after offering to acquire the remaining controlling stake in listed TN Bank from founder and long-time partner, Tawanda Nyambirai.

Masiyiwa, who had to overcome immense hurdles and government frustrations before he was granted a license to run a mobile telecommunications company in Zimbabwe in 1998, has seen his fortune rise on the back of the success of Econet. His company is now the leading telecommunications operator in Zimbabwe, with more than 7 million subscribers and recently reported a 17 percent jump in interim revenues to $339.5 million.

His move to add to Econet’s wireless’ existing stake in TN Bank which it earlier increased to 62 percent in July this year will see him foraying into Zimbabwe’s banking and financial services sector. Nyambirai, the founder of TN Bank and also chairman of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, said on Wednesday that he had accepted Masiyiwa’s offer to buy out his majority stake in TN Bank.

“I have since received an offer to buy out the remainder of my shareholding in TN Bank in exchange for shares in Econet wireless. The result will be that TN Bank will become a 100 percent subsidiary of Econet Wireless,” he said.

Masiyiwa’s offer, the finer details of which are not yet clear, has “already been accepted” by Nyambirai although it still has to “go through the normal processes; approval by SEC, approval by Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and approval by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe”.

He will get a significant but “minority” shareholding in Econet Wireless and also become an independent director.

As a result of the latest developments, Nyambirai will now step-down as Econet chairman. He has however been offered a board position on Econet Wireless Global, which is controlled by Masiyiwa and which holds his shares in Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.

Nyambirai has other business interests in Zimbabwe through his ZSE listed Lifestyle Holdings, which previously encompassed TN Bank before the bank demerged and listed separately earlier this year. Lifestyle Holdings has interests in fast foods, retailing, furniture and security.

Most locally owned banks in Zimbabwe are struggling while TN Bank is fast growing towards establishment as one of the stronger locally owned banks. Zimbabwean government officials appear to have backed off from the forced indigenisation of the more stable and larger foreign commercial banks such as Standard Chartered, Stanbic and Barclays.

An analyst, Jeffrey Kasirori told Ventures Africa that Masiyiwa’s foray into Zimbabwe’s banking sector through acquiring the remaining shareholding in TN Bank would enhance the bank’s capital position and bring more liquidity and resources at the bank’s disposal.

“It’s an offer that is difficult to resist. Masiyiwa has already established Econet as a resourceful company and the resources that the company has will bring an advantage and edge to TN Bank. This should enable it to claim a greater share of the market which currently rests with the more established commercial banks,” he said.