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Econet to unbundle EcoCash

Econet to unbundle EcoCash

Zimbabwe mobile money platform, EcoCash is to be unbundled from the mobile network operations of Econet Wireless, with the company now pushing to separately list the mobile wallet on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).

The development related to EcoCash (which is understood to have over eight million registered subscribers) is still subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals said Charles Banda, group company secretary for Econet Wireless.

In a cautionary statement on 28 September Banda said the company was considering "the demerger from the mobile network operations business, and the separate listing on the ZSE, of the company's financial technology business" which includes EcoCash and other related businesses.

The move to separately list EcoCash comes amid increasing pressure from the government to entrench interoperability among rival mobile money platforms.

EcoCash subscribers are now able to send money to recipients on competitor offerings Telecash and One Money.

Econet is also pursuing the exchange of the company's 51% stake in Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe "for a stake of equivalent value in the holding company, Liquid Telecom Holdings".

In 2017 Liquid acquired South Africa's Neotel and rebranded it as Liquid South Africa.

This is in anticipation of Liquid Telecom Holdings move to list "on a reputable international" stock exchange.

Reports in Zimbabwe also say Liquid Telecom is to merge with internet retailer ZOL as the company seeks to consolidate its corporate standing.

Shareholders and debenture holders in the company, as well as other investors, have been advised of the "conversion to equity of debentures that were issued as part of the company's rights offer" in March 2017.

This follows the refusal by Zimbabwean authorities to approve "a sinking fund account which would have been used to repay the debentures into an external foreign currency denominated account".

In the year to February 2018, after tax profits in Econet Wireless strengthened by 266% to US$132 million, driven by a revenue surge to US$832 million.

The interim year to the end of August 2018 is also expected to have been stronger owing to increased data usage during elections and continued reliance by Zimbabwean consumers on EcoCash for transaction payments as Zimbabwe continues to wobble from liquidity constraints, said dealers on the ZSE.

A stockbroker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "There is interest in Econet, even from foreign investors because of its strong fundamentals. We await to see how the market will react to this idea of separately listing EcoCash, but there have always been reports indicating the company was moving in this direction. The FinTech unit has also expanded that it now warrants unbundling."

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