Three months after the ZCCM IH management team signalled a way forward for their distressed asset, Ndola Lime, a way forward has been established, according to a statement from the investment group.
In March 2020, ZCCM IH announced the appointment of a Business Rescue Administrator (BRA) who would oversee the much need turnaround of Ndola Lime. The BRA had commenced the process of restructuring the operations of NLC with a view to creating a business that will take over the running of the limestone operations sustainably.
With over K1 billion kwacha already sunk into the lime company over the last 10 years, the entity continued making losses from operations. According to year on year annual reports from ZCCM IH in the last 5 years, indications of the causes of the challenges the entity was facing emanated from its core asset (Vertical Kiln).
In the 2012 AR, ZCCM IH reported that it had recapitalized Ndola Lime Company through a shareholder loan of K28.7 million (US2.82 million) for the NLC Recapitalization Project. At the time of publishing the 2016 AR, the Second Vertical Kiln (VK-2) was still undergoing hot commissioning.
Fast forward to the 2017 AR, it appears that the hot commissioning phase of the Recapitalization Project was met with a series of technical hurdles that affected the performance of the company. Small wonder why in the 2017 AR this particular update appeared under the “Strategic New Investments” section of the report? We asked the question because according to the 2017 AR, the Board was undertaking a review of the entire operation of the Ndola Lime to determine an appropriate option that will result in improving operations of NLC as well as the performance of the Group. This marked the first strong single that it was only a matter of time that the management team at ZCCM IH would make the strategic decision of bringing on board the BRA to turnaround this operation.
The task for the BRA according to the published statement from ZCCM IH entails the rollout of restructuring proposals in the Scheme of Arrangement which include:
- The creation of a New Company (NewCo);
- The restructuring of the liabilities of NLC;
- The transfer of the assets and business of Ndola Lime to the NewCo;
- Retrench, pay and transfer the employees of NLC to the NewCo; and,
- Dissolve NLC with or without winding up.
The new company is a vehicle that is being used as part of the road map to financial health. The management team is well aware that there was need to start life anew for this segment of their portfolio and hence why the NewCo has been incorporated and is known as Limestone Resources Limited (LRL) 100% owned by ZCCM-IH.
According to their published statement, “at a Final Creditors Meeting held on the 10th June 2020, the creditors passed a special resolution to approve the Restructuring Proposals as contained in the Scheme of Arrangement and the main objectives of the restructuring plan are for NLC’s successor company, LRL, to commence operations on a clean slate, debt-free, recruit a new management to spearhead the re-orientation of strategy and operations without any legacy problems associated with NLC”.
Limestone Resources Limited begins life anew and will address the challenges that were faced in Ndola Lime’s resources and capabilities. Without the institutional memory that Ndola Lime held, the management team at LRL can choose to cut the losses of Ndola lime and attract fresh capital to revamp the business. Furthermore, LRL can adopt its own business strategy that can relook at the manufacturing of quicklime (calcium oxide), slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), cement, and mortar which are typical limestone business segments and carve out the best option going forward that can create value for ZCCM IH. Furthermore, LRL can also decide to partner up with other successful entities in the same sector so that mistakes of the past are avoided.
Investors will be pleased with this move as a way forward for the investment group’s Achilles heel has been found.