Last week, we took a look at sub-Saharan Africa’s top-performing stocks of 2011. Zimbabwean firms dominated the list. In light of this, I thought it might be helpful to run through the details of actually buying and selling stock on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
Before I begin, however, let me state clearly that investing in Zimbabwe, in my view, entails a significantly higher degree of political risk than does investing in most other sub-Saharan markets. The government of national unity between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is fragile at best, so don’t invest any money that you can’t afford to lose.
That said, if you’re comfortable with the risks, you’ll find a lot of interesting companies among the exchange’s 78 listed stocks. Moreover, because the Zimbabwean economy has been dollarized, currency risk is not an issue for U.S. investors.
My previous experience investing in Zimbabwe was as an institutional investor. This is a rather different process than investing on your own as an individual. An introducing broker and custodian shepherded us through our transactions. We didn’t have to deal with the nitty-gritty of establishing a working relationship with a local Zimbabwean stockbroker.
So I compiled a list of stockbrokers who trade on the market. (This took a bit of digging because the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’s website has been down for maintenance for weeks.)
I then emailed each broker. I asked them if they catered to foreign investors and, if so, how much they required in order to open an account. Of the dozen or so brokers that I contacted, I found the following four brokers to be especially helpful and responsive.
- EFE Securities – ($1,000 minimum to open account) Founded in 2003, EFE Securities publishes daily market commentary and occasional company research reports on its website, both of which are available to registered users. Registration is free.
- IH Securities – ($2,000 minimum to open account) Headed by a former director of Renaissance Capital’s Zimbabwe operation, IH Securities offers free company research, daily market reports, and an excellent Equities Trading Handbook on its website.
- Lynton-Edwards Stockbrokers – ($1,000 minimum to open account) One of Zimbabwe’s larger stockbrokers, Lynton-Edwards’ slick website provides stock charts and company results for a selection of firms.
- MMC Capital – ($10,000 minimum to open account) A relative newcomer, MMC Capital was founded in 2008. Executive Director Itai Chirume is a Chartered Financial Analyst. You can join MMC’s research mailing list via their website.
The process of opening an individual trading account and buying and selling shares is essentially the same for all Zimbabwean brokers. In fact, they even charge the same commissions and fees. They differ only in their minimum funding requirements and the quality of customer service and research they provide.
Here’s how much it will cost you to buy and sell stock on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange:
|Total Commission and Fees as % of Total Transaction Value||1.73% + US$2.00||2.41% + US$2.00|
Note that Zimbabwe levies a 15% withholding tax on dividends. This is deducted by the issuing company before the dividend payment is made.
Opening a Zimbabwean Brokerage Account
Now let’s walk through the process of opening an account and buying your first shares.
Step 1: Complete and Return the Account Opening Form
The account opening form (aka the “Know Your Client” or KYC Form) typically requires disclosure of your passport number or other ID number, your address, and banking details.
Take note here that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange still issues actual paper certificates as proof of share ownership. So, they will be mailed to you unless you specify that you would like your broker to hold them on your behalf. If you prefer not to hold these certificates in your filing cabinet or safe deposit box, I suggest you ask your broker to set up a Nominee account. This will allow your broker to hold share certificates on your behalf as well as to directly deposit any dividends directly into your trading account.
Step 2: Review, Sign, and Return the Broker Agreement
Most Zimbabwean brokers require a signed broker agreement or mandate form before they will open an individual account. The document outlines the terms of service to be provided.
Step 3: Provide a Certified Copy of Your Passport
If you don’t have a valid passport, a certified copy of your driver’s license may suffice.
Step 4. Provide a Copy of a Recent Utility Bill or Other Proof of Residence
A scanned copy of your electric bill should work just fine.
Step 5. Wire Funds to Your Brokerage Account
After opening your trading account, your broker will provide you with its bank details so that you can fund your account. The most efficient way to do this is via wire transfer. If you haven’t sent an international wire before, I suggest that you take your broker’s bank details to your local bank branch and ask them to walk you through the process. They’ll make sure that your funds arrive securely. Note that most US banks charge about $25 for outgoing international wires.
Step 6. Submit a Trade Order
You’ve done your research and found a stock that you’d like to buy. What now?
While some brokers will request a signed trade mandate form, for most brokers, all you need to do is send an email to your broker with your trade instructions. Keep in mind that some Zimbabwean shares are rather illiquid, so I advise specifying a limit price for all of your orders. This will help you avoid paying significantly more for your shares than you had intended to pay.
Your broker will then execute your trade and send you a contract note that specifies the buy or sell price, commissions, and fees. Settlement of share trades takes seven days in Zimbabwe, so if you’ve sold shares, don’t expect to receive the proceeds of a sale for an entire week unless you’re willing to incur a penalty to settle the trade more quickly.
That’s it! Follow these steps and you’re a Zimbabwe investor.
The process of opening a foreign brokerage account can be confusing. If you found this walk-thru to be clear as mud, please don’t be shy. Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get answers for them.
[If you’d like tips on opening a Kenyan brokerage account, check out this interview on how to invest on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.]