Zimbabwe seeks to raise $350 million selling shares in state firms

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HARARE, March 19 (Reuters) – Zimbabwe expects to raise $350 million from selling shares in five state-owned telecommunications companies and a bank, as part of economic reforms being pursued by the government, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in a statement.

The southern African nation’s economy is experiencing a severe dollar crunch and faces more headwinds from a drought this year that has wilted crops and left up to 5.3 million people in need of food aid, according to a U.N. humanitarian agency.

Ncube said on Tuesday the government would dispose of shares in its two mobile phone operators NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe, the country’s sole fixed line telephony company TelOne, postal services Zimpost and state-owned savings bank POSB.

“Work is already under way to identify transaction advisers. Government projects to realise over $350 million from this initial process,” Ncube said in a statement, without giving a timeline.

Ncube was not immediately available to comment but he said in October selling state firms, known locally as parastatals, was one of the ways to reduce government spending.

The government has targeted selling some or all shares in 43 of its companies, most of them loss-making and which have relied on state bailouts over the years.

Rebuilding the troubled economy is the biggest challenge to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was re-elected in a disputed vote last July and is seeking to pivot away from some of the disastrous policies of his predecessor Robert Mugabe.