Newspapers in Zimbabwe are either reducing their sizes or their circulations are shrinking while declining incomes are forcing people to use less toilet tissue.
This is what the half-year report for Amalgamated Regional Trading (ART) seems to be saying. The report for the period ending March says the volumes of board and fine paper were boosted by exports with board products increasing by 89 percent while fine paper products went up by 17 percent.
Newsprint volumes declined by 19 percent while tissue declined by 25 percent. Total revenue however still shot up by 323 percent from $4.6 billion to $19.5 billion, more than the $12.4 billion the company realised during the year ending September.
Operating profit increased by 403 percent from $1.2 billion to $6.2 billion while net profit shot up from $833 million to $3.8 billion. Net profit for the year ending September was $2.3 billion.
The company says price controls restricted growth in turnover and reduced margins, but this was mitigated by paper prices in the East African market. The stationery business grew in volumes because of reduced competition. Operations in Zambia and Malawi also grew.
Tissue was, however, negatively affected by price controls while volume declined by 25 percent due to reduced spending power.
Battery exports increased by 36 percent while sales in Zimbabwe were down by 20 percent. Sales were, however, static overall. The company says the lifting of price controls should improve profit margins on the Zimbabwean market. But it says it will have to grapple with major challenges of the exchange rate, currency availability and the availability of energy.