Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's central bank chief on Friday warned on threats to foreign banks after state media said 13 firms had two weeks to submit plans for selling majority shares to locals or face losing permits.
The Herald said the firms, including Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered, had two weeks to submit acceptable indigenisation plans or risk losing their licenses with the government taking over ownership.
"There are ways of achieving the same objectives as intended by the law through non-confrontational means and not in a manner of dishing out threats to sensitive institutions that are custodians of people's hard-earned savings," responded Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono in a statement.
"This is necessary in order to avoid fly-by-night, reckless and excitable flexing of muscles and decisions that overlook certain fundamentals that could irreparably harm the nerve centre of our recovering economy."
The Herald reported that Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere had given the companies a two-week ultimatum to submit plans on how they intended to meet the 51 percent direct equity participation by locals within five years.
The two banks, six mining companies and five other firms had "been given a two-week ultimatum to submit acceptable indigenisation plans or risk losing their licences with the Government taking over ownership", the paper said.
Other affected companies included platinum miner Zimplats and British American Tobacco [JSE:BTI]
which received letters dated July 28 signed by Kasukuwere, and officials told the newspaper no responses had yet been received.
"If the companies fail to rectify their non-compliance, the minister is empowered under the indigenisation act to institute proceedings to cancel their licenses," The Herald reported
But Gono assured foreign banks that the central bank had not issued notices to revoke their licences.
"The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe... wishes to advise all stakeholders that it has neither given notice nor does it have an immediate or foreseeable intention to withdraw operating licences."
A new indigenisation law requires all foreign firms to sell 51% stakes to black Zimbabweans, with companies given up to September 25 to submit proposals on how they plan to comply.
The new law is strongly supported by veteran President Robert Mugabe but has created tensions within the unity government, with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai arguing that it will discourage investment.
Mugabe had defended the regulations as a measure to correct the economic imbalances created by Zimbabwe's colonial past.
Zimbabwe is in the process of rebuilding its economy following nearly a decade of political and economic crisis that ended with the formation of a unity government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai two years ago.
Foreign mines operating in the country include London-listed Aquarius Platinum, Australian-listed Zimbabwe Platinum Mines, Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS]
and Rio Tinto.