WMI engages top car makers

WILLOWVALE Motor Industries is in negotiations with leading world car manufacturers with a view of assembling their brands locally, a senior official said yesterday.

General manager for Industrial Development Corporation — which partly owns WMI — Mr Ben Kumalo told The Herald Business that negotiations with four vehicles manufacturers were underway, but declined to reveal their names citing confidentiality.

WMI used to assemble various type of cars such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Peugeot. In 2017, WMI entered into a joint venture with a Chinese firm to assemble cars from semi-knocked down kits. The partnership has resulted in the formation of Beiqi Zimbabwe, a joint venture between China’s fifth largest car manufacturer, Beijing Automobile International Corp (BAIC) and WMI.

“WMI is engaged in discussions for the local assembly of some of the popular brands in order to create local employment,” said Mr Kumalo as the company “continues to search for prospective partners for Willowvale Motor Industries and Deven Engineering in collaboration with the State Enterprises Restructuring Agency”.

Critics, however, said given low incomes by the majority of Zimbabweans, the affordability on new cars would remain a challenge. Between 2009 and 2016, Zimbabweans spent as much as $4,5 billion on second hand cars, an average of $566 million per year, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Office. But various measures are being put in place to curtail grey imports and create the market for new cars.

Last year, the Government launched Motor Industry and Development Policy 2018-2030, which seeks to attract foreign direct investment into the local automotive assembly and components manufacturing sector to 10 percent of FDI by 2030.

By that time, Zimbabwe is expecting to have achieved upper-middle income status.

On the update of disposal of certain subsidiaries under IDC, Mr Kumalo said the company had concluded the sale of Almin Metal Industries and Stone Holdings. Expressions of interest on Zimbabwe Grain Bag have also been received and prospective investors are conducting due diligence. A shareholder partner has injected fresh capital into Amtec Motors while the tractor business, which was operated as a separate business unit, Motira has since been absorbed into Amtec Motors.

On Chemplex Group, Kumalo said, the privatisation was still ongoing.

“We have appointed financial advisors who are assisting us with the privatisation process. To date, working with the financial advisors, we have received and evaluated a number of expressions of interest. We have also finalised the necessary information memorandum for the use of the interested prospective investors as they carry out their respective due diligence of the Chemplex. The Financial advisors have also carried out a valuation of the various business units to guide us in the negotiations.”

Chemplex has five main operating divisions – Dorowa Minerals, Zimbabwe Phosphate Industries Limited (ZimPhos), Chemplex Marketing, Chemplex Animal and Public Health (CAPH), and G. D. Haulage. ZimPhos is the country’s sole producer of sulphuric acid, aluminium sulphate used in municipal water treatment, and superphosphates, used in the production of phosphate fertilisers.

Dorowa is Zimbabwe’s only phosphate mine while Chemplex Marketing imports a wide range of chemicals for the mining, plastics, food, horticultural, water and other industries.