BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA
SOUTHERN Africa’s logistics giant, Unifreight Africa Limited says it has embarked on a drive to establish fresh markets to ride out of COVID-19-induced headwinds which pulled its volumes down by 14% during the year ended December 31, 2020.
Unifreight came to the market with full year 2020 financial statements yesterday, with a brief analysis of developments for 2021 showing that its new strategy could be bearing fruit, as revenues rose 94% during the first half.
Volumes moved up 35% during the same period, even as Zimbabwe was under a hard lockdown to contain the COVID-19 third wave.
“The board, executive and management are focusing on what can be controlled, working hard to maintain a positive attitude and searching for pockets of opportunity that have been created while extremely cognisant of protecting shareholder value,” the firm said.
In terms of financial performance, the group recorded an inflation adjusted loss of $76,2 million compared to $16,9 million in profit after tax in 2019.
This followed a $207,3 million in knock in depreciation and another $205 million worth of monetary losses in the period under review.
The group said notwithstanding the difficult start to the year, operations recovered well under the circumstances. Inflation adjusted earnings before interest, tax and depreciation was $367 million, which was 8% above prior year.
“Given the COVID-19-related challenges that were experienced during the year, the board is pleased with the performance,” Unifreight said.
“The group’s key performance indicators are moving in the appropriate direction through improving yields and improved fuel consumption levels attributed to investment in the new fleet. Careful management of labour cost per tonne and an overall improvement in cost controls gives the board confidence that management is on a sustainable trajectory.”
However, Unifreight said, the stark reality of an uncertain economic outlook nationally and globally was of major concern.
In April, chief executive officer Rob Kuipers told NewsDay Business that the firm had tapped into several spinoffs unlocked by last year’s acquisition of agro-industrial dealer, Zimplow Holdings Limited.
He said gaining a foothold in a strategic operation like Zimplow had unlocked value for one of Zimbabwe’s largest transport operators.
Kuipers noted that the highlight of the transaction, that was concluded late last year, was that a bull run soon followed, with the decades-old giant’s share price advancing 7 000% in 2020, placing it among the biggest movers on the stock market.
Under the deal, Zimplow acquired two Unifreight subsidiaries to back its diversification strategy in Zimbabwe.
These included Tredcor Zimbabwe where Unifreight controlled 51% shareholding and Birmingham Investments in which the logistics giant held full control. Unifreight took over 15 399 564 newly issued Zimplow shares in exchange for its 51% shareholding in Tredcor.
It also assumed control of 15 774 446 new shares in Zimplow in exchange for its stake in Birmingham Investments, according to a statement released by Unifreight before for the deal was put to a shareholder vote.