Econet Wireless has sent out thousands of cheques worth close to $10 million in dividend payments to its shareholders for the year ended February 2010, finance director Mr Kris Chirairo has said.
The payout will provide relief to thousands of pensioners who are on pension funds invested in Econet.
Mr Chirairo said that Econet had one of the largest numbers of shareholders of any company listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. “Our shareholder profile is dominated by thousands of small shareholders and mutual funds that predominantly invest for pension funds,” he said.
Mr Chirairo stressed that Econet was not owned by a single person, but by a wide cross-section of shareholders. “The truth is we are a public company, and we are owned by thousands of shareholders. Many people are not even aware that they own shares through their pension funds that are invested in us.”
He noted that Econet was the first company in Zimbabwe to pay out a US dollar dividend. “Our pension fund shareholders depend on us to provide liquidity and to make pension payments to their pensioners. I know from talking to them, that many pensioners are really desperate. It is one of the reasons why we work hard to pay out dividends every six months.”
Mr Chirairo said policy makers needed to be aware of the role that public companies such as Econet play in supporting pensioners. “Most of the money invested on our stock exchange comes from pensions and insurance funds. Hyperinflation devastated pension funds, and they can only rebuild through investment in listed companies.”
Mr Chirairo noted that a lot of pension funds have had to dispose of investments to pay pensioners. “This is not sustainable, because it weakens the pension funds. They are forced to take such action because liquidity is really scarce. What they need are dividends from their investments.”
Econet Wireless is also one of the largest payers of taxes to the government.
Meanwhile, the Econet director called on government to implement more policies that speed up the recovery of large public listed companies. “We cannot have just one or two public companies paying dividends. This has serious ramifications on the recovery of the pensions sector, and therefore on the welfare of the pensioners themselves. Pension funds can only get real liquidity if the productive sector recovers fully and people are properly remunerated.”
Econet press release
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