* Invesco's Woodford makes $25 mln punt in AIM listing
* Fund seeks further $75 mln in follow-on offer
* Aims to buy assets ahead of Zimbabwe economic bounce
By Chris Vellacott
LONDON, Aug 2 A investment fund plans to raise
$100 million to buy assets in Zimbabwe ahead of a hoped-for
bounce back from the country's status as an economic basket
Masawara Plc has already secured a $25 million commitment
from one of Britain's biggest investors, Invesco Perpetual's
Neil Woodford, and its managers hope to achieve a total
capitalisation of around $155 million.
The new vehicle will invest in sectors where the
breadbasket-turned-pariah has a perceived comparative advantage,
such as mining and agriculture, its manager, Shingai Mutasa,
told Reuters on Monday.
It also plans to invest in other capital-starved areas such
as telecommunications and real estate as well as snapping up
assets in an expected wave of privatisations as the
cash-strapped state moves to sell its holdings, Mutasa said.
"When we pitched to Mr Woodford he was intrigued... I get
the feeling he sees this as a new frontier," Mutasa said.
Woodford, who runs more than 15 billion pounds ($23.72
billion) in assets, will take close to 30 percent of the fund by
buying all the shares in an initial public offer for $25
million, implying a market capitalisation of $80 million.
The remaining shares are owned by the fund's management.
After the offer Masawara will be listed on AIM, albeit with
negligible liquidity or trading volumes, giving it the exposure
and transparency Mutasa hopes will pique the interest of others.
Within six months, the company expects to launch a follow-on
offer amounting to a further $75 million of new invesmtent,
"We don't believe $25 million is a lot of money in terms of
the opportunities in Zimbabwe. We believe the moment that is
spent we will immediately come back to the market," he said.
The initial portfolio comprises a 40 percent interest in a
commercial real estate development and 30 percent in
Harare-listed TA Holdings, an investment company with shares in
insurance, agricultural businesses and hotels.
Zimbabwe has struggled with macroeconomic crisis in recent
years, and inflation reached an annual rate of 231 million
percent in July 2008 before the country stopped announcing
Inflation was brought under control with the adoption of the
U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies while political unrest
has lessened since President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan
Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government last year.
"The hyperinflation era and difficult political environment
over the last 10 years sapped most Zimbabwean businesses of
capital and we see a massive opportunity in the rebuilding of
the Zimbabwe economy over the next five to 10 years. We're
pretty confident this is the right time to start putting money
in," Mutasa said.
(Reporting by Chris Vellacott; Editing by Michael Shields)
(For the Funds Hub blog: blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)
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