Investors in Zimbabwe sell stocks on hopes Mugabe will resign or be fired

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Lagos — Investors have dumped Zimbabwean stocks every day since the military seized power, on optimism that 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe will be forced to step down.

The stocks, which are denominated in US dollars and were used to hedge against rising inflation, fell 10% on Monday to an eight-week low of 387.38, bringing the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange industrial index’s retreat since the army’s takeover on the morning of November 15 to 27%.

The bourse’s market capitalisation has plunged $4.8bn in that period to $11.1bn, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Zimbabwe’s stocks soared this year after the government printed a new form of money — called bond notes — to deal with a cash shortage, stoking concerns over price growth in a nation that saw inflation jump into the billions of per cent about a decade ago. While Zimbabwe has mostly used the dollar since scrapping its own worthless currency in 2009, greenbacks have become scarce as Zimbabwe’s balance of payments position has worsened.

Investors pointed to the so-called Old Mutual gap as a sign of how unrealistic Zimbabwean valuations had become. While the insurer’s shares trade at the dollar-equivalent of about $2.52 in London and Johannesburg, they rose to $14.30 by November 14 in Harare. They have since fallen to $9.25.

The developments have “materially improved the prospect of a change in leadership and an ultimate re-opening of foreign capital inflow,” driving the Old Mutual Implied Rate down, Hasnain Malik, an analyst at Exotix Capital in Dubai, wrote in a note on Monday. “Falling local share prices are, until the Old Mutual Implied Rate approaches zero, a reflection of increasing macroeconomic optimism.”