APEX Holdings will soon open a foundry in Zambia as it seeks to drive exports of its products into the region.
Group chief executive Mr George Khumalo told an annual general meeting the foundry would manufacture mill balls. He added that demand was strong in that country but the main driver behind the decision was "the availability of electricity and easy access to raw materials".
The Zambian foundry would also make it easier for the group to export some of its product lines to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi. On overall group performance, Mr Khumalo said there was subdued demand locally especially in premier but there were greater opportunities in the region for baths and basins. Mill ball sales declined 50 percent in the local market although the group is focusing more on their (mill balls) production "because they have a much higher margin".
Mr Khumalo said the group was importing scrap iron from Zambia, which is transported by trucks that would have gone with the mill ball exports. The group said the move to import from Zambia came to be as there had been no production of pig iron from Zisco for the past two months after the plant had been closed for refurbishment. Mr Khumalo said "because of the issues over procuring pig iron and scrap, sales of stoves into SA were lower".
Coke was also a major problem, although the Gweru foundry had received three loads via rail two weeks ago. The group had installed generators and induction furnaces at its various divisions. On the outlook, the group was looking at developing new products such as a new mini plant to dry fruit and vegetables.
As with many other companies, staff continued to leave for South Africa and Botswana. Mr Khumalo said the group had offered huge perks to retain them.