NSSA and ZHL protect turf in Fidelity as vultures close in on assets

HARARE- The National Social Security Authority which has a huge equities exposure on the ZSE and ZHL an insurer turned investment holding company with various insurance offshoots in Zimbabwe among other investments, are consolidating their shared interests in Fidelity Life, a publicly traded life insurer.

In a statement issued addressed to shareholders and in line with ZSE requirements, released on Tuesday, Fidelity said it has received communication from its 3 major shareholders namely NSSA, ZHL and TURISMO, to the effect that the 3 have entered into a Vote Pooling Agreement in relation to Fidelity Life Assurance.

The vote pooling agreement’s objective are in pursuit of combining shareholding for purposes of voting, regulating the appointment of non-executive directors on the basis of 1 appointee for every 12% shareholding by each party to the agreement.

The agreement is also for purposes of regulating transfer and encumbrance of shares in line with the vote pooling agreement agreement and Fidelity Life Assurance Articles of Association.

These developments come barely a year and half after the eruption of a protracted fight between NSSA and ZHL on one side and various investment vehicles linked to British investor, Nick Van Hoog Straten on the other.

The ensuing battle saw the 2 side battle for control of CFI, a loss making treasure trove believed then to be underutilised and mismanaged.

Before the battle, ZHL exerted some good measure of influence on CFI, together with NSSA and under the duo’s watch, significant value was lost through mismanagement and failed capitalisation schemes.

After the messy fight for the heart of CFI, Nick Van Hoog through Messina Investments emerged victorious on paper, as his combined shareholding swelled above the 50% mark, effectively asserting his camp in control position at the beleaguered agro industrial entity.

The latest move announced by Fidelity on Tuesday shows trails of linkages to the CFI debacle as well, which implies NSSA and ZHL are attempting to be cautious and preemptive, within the turf, the duo jointly control by pulling forces.

This development is especially true in the face of a pending litigation filed by CFI, now controlled by Nick Van Hoog, challenging the sale of Langford Estates to Fidelity in a 2015 deal.

The debt for land swap, involved the acquisition of CFI’s debt to local creditors, valued at around $18 million, by Fidelity in exchange of 700 hectares of land owned by CFI.

The deal came at a time CFI was controlled by NSSA and ZHL who in turn held controlling stakes in Fidelity, raising alarm for conflict of interest.

However in years prior to the shifts in power matrice at CFI, Nic Van Hoog, then holding less sway at CFI, always blocked recapitalisation through new funding. Instead he advocated for a disposal of some entities and similar debt to asset swaps.

After the deal with Fidelity was passed, Nic heightened his criticism of the deal, alleging that the land forgone held significantly more value that what it was disposed for. He has since then vowed to fight for the land, a matter which is now at the heart of the battle between himself, NSSA and ZHL.

In the full year to December 2018, Fidelity recorded decline in revenue, coming off against a depleting serviced stands bank. The company said it looks forward to pursuing its plans on the disputed land after a resolution has been found.

– Equity Axis News

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Equity Axis is an online financial media service platform focused on African markets offering real-time stock quotes, news, analysis and data.

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