Media report that Renaissance Capital (www.rencap.com), a unit of Russian investment bank Renaissance Group, is drawing closer to a takeover of one of Zimbabwe’s largest stock-broking firms, Lynton Edwards Securities (www.lynton-edwards.com – LES). This could upset small brokerage firms for whom Rencap has been a key source of business from foreign investors that dominate the Zimbabwe market.
According to the report in Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette, RenCap has approached the Competition and Tariffs Commission (CTC) seeking regulatory approval for the acquisition of LES. It says CTC assistant director in charge of competition, Ben Chinhengo, confirmed that the commission was scrutinising a proposed transaction, describing it as a merger between the two companies: “The commission is currently examining the merger. It takes up to 90 days and we are within that scope.” The report quoted a stockbroker as saying the market rumour is that the transaction is nearing completion.
“No intention to acquire”
However, the report also notes that both LES and Rencap have declined to confirm the transaction, and Rencap is an important source of business for many local stockbrokers. It quoted LES managing director, Murray Lynton-Edwards, saying:”We were in talks 3 years ago but nothing was concluded.” Renaissance Group’s head of Zimbabwe and Zambia operations, Robert Reid, denied it: “We enjoy a very strong relationship with local brokers. We value those relationships and we are always talking to them and that is how we have set up ourselves in Zimbabwe. At the moment we have no intention to acquire any local broker or, to seek to grow our equities business organically by applying for a licence.”
RenCap is a leading independent investment bank operating in Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and other high-opportunity emerging and frontier markets. It has spread its business across several securities traders and some smaller stockbroking firms fear it will direct all its business towards LES. It started investment banking in Africa in 2006, committing over US$5 billion in capital-raising and financial advisory transactions.
LES was formed in 2004 and has over the years grown to become one of the biggest players on the country’s capital markets, competing closely with Imara Edwards Securities and one of the few profit-making brokerage firms on the ZSE. Stockbrokers charge 1% brokerage fees on every transaction. One source quoted said the value of the transaction would be about US$1 million.
LES has reportedly been RenCap’s preferred broking firm and a takeover would mean that RenCap would minimise its cost of trading on the ZSE and create possible dominance by LES on all foreign investor deals. LES would also benefit by having a much stronger capital base for future deals.
Rencap in Zimbabwe
Official statistics show that the ZSE is largely driven by foreign investors, whose participation continues to rise steadily: 22% in January, 53% in March and peaking at 71% in May.
Renaissance Partners, RenCap’s principal investment unit, is a major shareholder in Bubye River Conservancy, Africa’s largest privately-held wildlife conservancy, encompassing 324,000 hectares in southeast Zimbabwe. It is located in the Lowveld, 60km from the South African border, straddling the Bubye River. RenCap has also invested in a 290-hectare urban development project in Zimbabwe and has board representation in CBZ Bank, the country’s largest commercial bank by both assets and lending.
The group provided financial advisory in Essar Africa Holdings Limited’s US$750m acquisition of Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, now NewZim Steel.
Rencap’s Reid said: “We are hosting on a weekly basis, the biggest corporates from Russia, India, China and other parts of Africa. Clearly, one of the key questions they ask is what is going on with indigenisation. Those that are interested in investing here understand that there is a need for some form of local empowerment, but the challenge has always been in the implementation of these policies. It is not unique to Zimbabwe; South Africa has been trying to formulate and implement BEE (black economic empowerment) policies since the 1990s.”