Conversations in various forums and business circles in Zimbabwe have revolved around the need to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) and portfolio flows into the country. According to the UNCTAD’s 2020 World Investment Report, FDI inflows decreased significantly to USD280 million in 2019, compared to pre-crisis period (USD745 million in 2018).
This trend has also been evident on the capital markets in Zimbabwe. Foreign investor participation on the local bourse has waned as most portfolio investors have been divesting from Zimbabwean equities. Given this background, we maintain a strong view that publicly traded companies in Zimbabwe have a part to play since they are ambassadors of the country to the international investing community.
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) listed companies should increase their visibility through aggressive investor relations strategies and campaigns that are aimed at communicating the investment case in the business and more broadly, in the general economy. Communicating a comprehensive story about their operations goes a long way in attracting portfolio investors.
Further, improved investor relations standards can also open possibilities for cross-listings on other international exchanges. We have in the past been disturbed by Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) listed companies that delay releasing financial results. Business leaders in Zimbabwe should be cognisant of the fact that it is critical for shareholders to be informed on the performance of their company on time.
In addition, it should be clear to everyone that it is shareholders who own the company, not the Directors or Corporate Managers. From a more global context, economies are largely divided between countries where financial markets are paramount and others where they play a lesser role. In a survey carried out to ascertain the different financial market models, employees were asked the question, “Under which of the following assumptions is a large company in your country managed?” The average answers for four countries are illustrated in the table.
The results reveal that in the USA and Britain, where there are market-centred models of business finance, companies put profits first. Market-centred systems are based on the principle that control of the firm should rest in the hands of its shareholders.
This means that the interests of shareholders should determine the firm’s business decisions. The main ingredient of a market-centred financial system is that there is need to be a consistent system of reporting on the financial condition of businesses so that a few insiders (such as company managers) are not in a privileged position.
One of the basic principles of corporate governance is disclosure and transparency. Organisations should implement procedures to independently verify and safeguard the integrity of the company’s financial reporting.
Disclosure of material matters concerning the organisation should also be timely and balanced to ensure that all investors have access to clear information. Delta Corporation stands out as an organisation that upholds high levels of investor relations on the local equities market. Some of the notable practices include;
- An updated investor section on the Delta Corporation website;
- Timely release of Financial Results and Quarterly Trading Updates;
- Comprehensive Chairman’s statement and Annual Reports that detail critical information such as volumes data, management changes and progress on acquisitions/ transactions;
- Detailed Analyst Presentations;
- Consistent Analyst Briefings (both live and virtual);
- Occasional Analyst Tours at different plants (Coca-cola, Chibuku and Lagers);
- Analyst engagements and networking events.
Overall, Delta Corporation has been consistent over the years and this has also been the major reason for the significant foreign activity in the counter. A common trend is that foreign strategic shareholders have strong influence in terms of upholding best practices. This supports our positive tone on counters such as Afdis (Distell), Delta (ABInbev), Old Mutual Zimbabwe (Old Mutual Limited), SeedCo International (Limagrain) and NMBZ (Arise).
That said, another company worth mentioning is Innscor Africa. The group has demonstrated a significant improvement particularly in terms of management openness, analyst briefings and the depth of the Chairman’s statement. We should expect both Delta Corporation and Innscor Africa to remain trend setters that other companies in Zimbabwe should emulate in 2022 and beyond.