Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Cold Storage Company (CSC) is ready to commence upgrades on its key infrastructure at an estimated cost of more than US$100 million following completion of a preliminary engineering report, a senior official said yesterday.
The revival of the country’s largest beef processor and marketer is expected to create more than 600 jobs at its Bulawayo headquarters alone.
Cabinet has approved a US$400 million joint venture deal between CSC and Boustead Beef (Pvt) Ltd. The facility will be spread over the next three to four years.
In an interview yesterday, Boustead Beef Zimbabwe managing director Mr Nick Havercroft said engineering work at their Bulawayo abattoirs was about to begin.
“We are refurbishing everything and we’ve done an engineering report and now we are about to commence the engineering work and it’s a five months project because that business hasn’t worked for 15 years so the major repairs and maintenance have to be done,” he said.
“We have basically completed the engineering report and have signed the contract, ordered the equipment and we know what we need so there is a lot going on.
“More than US$100 million will be spent on the engineering works.”
The engineering undertaking at CSC, Mr Havercroft said, is a massive programme that will involve the rehabilitation of boilers, boreholes, condensers, compressors, and conveyor belts among other critical infrastructure components.
It is hoped that within the next six months, CSC Bulawayo abattoirs should be up and running before a similar exercise is rolled out to the firm’s abattoirs and ranches dotted across the country in areas such as Masvingo, Chinhoyi, Marondera, Harare, Gweru, Mutare and Kadoma.
Asked about recent media reports suggesting that Boustead Beef was “a mere briefcase company with a £10 000 share capital and a cell phone for its main contact number”, Mr Havercroft said:
“Boustead Beef UK (United Kingdom) is not the holding company or the investing company.
“It (Boustead Beef UK) was set up to start the process of raising finance and this has been five years in progress doing market research and understanding the business.
“Boustead Beef UK was set up to import beef into the United Kingdom and to raise finance.
“The holding company is not Boustead Beef UK and the holding company has extremely strong partners, which have been to Zimbabwe . . . and have met the Minister of Agriculture (Perrance Shiri) and are known to other ministers.
“They are very strong (financial) investors and good partners.
“Raising money for Zimbabwe is extremely difficult, I’m sure you will understand this due to sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and like I said raising capital was a five-year process, it wasn’t done quickly”.
Mr Havercroft would not be drawn into revealing the name of their investors citing professional reasons but this paper has it on good authority that Boustead Beef Zimbabwe was being financed by various equity investors from the United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Australia.
“I can’t disclose the investors because I have to protect my investors otherwise people will start phoning them and sending emails requesting for money.
“And that’s what happens, I’ve been in business a long time and my investors are my partners.
“They are my friends and I can’t expose them to what I was exposed to last week in the Press here (locally); all the mudslinging and rumours against what we are doing without people actually bothering to phone or doing a research about the company,” he said.
Mr Havercroft said it took 16 months to November last year for Boustead Beef Zimbabwe to conclude negotiations for the transaction with the Government.
It is hoped that the resuscitation of CSC will go a long way in improving the economy through beef exports as it will unlock value in the livestock industry.
At its peak, the beef processor and marketer used to handle up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products annually and exported to the European Union, where it had an annual quota of 9 100 tonnes of beef.
The company used to earn the country about $45 million per year. — @okazunga