ONE of Zimbabwe’s oldest transport and logistics companies, Unifreight, is on the rebound after investing over US$6 million to renew its old fleet while enhancing capacity.
The company is forecasting a US$2.5 million profit before tax this year, after suffering a loss in ZWL terms last year.
Unifreight has three subsidiaries, namely Swift, Bulwark and Skynet Worldwide Express. Chief executive officer Richard Clarke, who assumed the role in January after acting in the position for three months, told The NewsHawks he was confident the company was on a growth trajectory, following the investment and strategies put in place by management.
The business made a loss in Zimbabwe dollar terms last year due to a number of factors, among them the loss of value of its Zimplow shares on the stock exchange, overnight change of interest rates of about 200% and an old fleet of Scania trucks, with a mileage of over 1 million kilometres.
Unifreight has however been selling the old fleet while buying new assets.
“At the end of 2022, we began buying FAW 380 horsepower trucks with We chai engines with a fast two gear box. We bought 100 of these assets on an instalment sale agreement. In addition, we bought Afrit taut liners and 25 Afrit super links,” said Clarke.
“We have been disposing the Scanias and we are left with about 20 on our fleet. We needed to add capacity because there is demand for services offered by Swift, especially from blue chip companies.
We provide services to companies such as Delta, Schweppes, nestle, Tongaat, Pure Oil and Unki Mines, just to mention a few.”
Clarke said demand is growing because Unifreight is able to take goods, consolidate them and distribute nationwide within 24 to 48 hours consistently. He said the company was looking at having a full truckload business where trucks leave one destination with a load and come back with a load on the return trip.
He said the new investment has resulted in an increase in volumes which Unifreight is moving such that the company was forecasting to generate US$24 million this year, up from US$16.8 million.
“We are also expecting US$2.5 million profit at full year in 2023 before tax, up from US$518 million in 2022,” Clarke said.
“Over and above that, we have ordered 15 FAW 8 140hp (horse power) FL (5 tonners) and 15 FAW 28 290hp (FL013 tonners to cater for increasing demand for collection and deliveries in Harare and Bulawayo.
“We want to get another 100 trucks by Q1 2024 [first quarter of 2024]. We will also look towards the regional market for additional cross-border business to earn foreign currency and de-risk our business.”
Clarke said the management was turning around the business through attention to detail, strict key performance indicators for each member of the executive team that are aligned to the company’s vision to achieve extra ordinary results.
He said the company had chosen to invest in FAW trucks because they were the leading commercial vehicle manufacturer in South Africa with a market share of 13.4%.
He said the Wechai engine is also tried and tested and can easily do 600 000 kilometres. He said repair and maintenance costs of the FAW are also considerably lower.-STAFF WRITER