Shoprite is the biggest of South Africa's "big five" food retailers, as well as the overall #1 across the whole African continent. (It has no connection to the ShopRite retail brand in the US). Although South Africa is its biggest market by far with more than 2,500 owned or franchised stores - it is the country's largest private-sector employer - the group also operates more than 330 outlets in 14 other countries across the continent from Angola to Zambia, the majority of them directly owned. The three main brands are Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets and hypermarkets, and a range of convenience and furniture shops under the OK banner. However the group also manages a broad collection of other outlets including Usave no-frills convenience stores, Hungry Lion fast food restaurants and House & Home general stores. Shoprite Holdings is the personal creation of Whitey Basson, forged through a series of ever larger acquisitions since 1979 when, as general manager of general retailer PEP & Co, he acquired eight supermarkets in South Africa's Western Cape. With backing from old friend Christo Wiese, by then the controlling shareholder of PEP, additional stores were bought and rebranded under the Shoprite name. The most significant developments were the acquisition of Checkers supermarkets in 1991, followed by OK Bazaars six years later. Group revenues for year to June 2019 were R 150.4bn (around $10.4bn). Basson retired as CEO in 2016, succeeded by Pieter Engelbrecht. Wiese is chairman and Shoprite's biggest individual shareholder (now with around 15%). His investment vehicle Brait also owns UK food retailer Iceland and has a minority stake in fashion chain New Look, international fitness chain Virgin Active and South African food producer Premier. Separate group Steinhoff International still owns general retailer Pep & Co, as well as furniture chains including Harveys and Bensons For Beds in the UK, and Conforama of France. However the latter group has been struggling since the end of 2017 to resolve what appears to have been a massive accounting fraud. Wiese's personal fortune topped $6.8bn at its peak; by mid 2018 it had crashed to under $1bn as a result of the problems at Steinhoff.
Capsule checked 22nd April 2020
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Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Dec 2017: Life is already tough for traditional retailers. It could be about to get even more difficult for a collection of chains owned by Steinhoff International, the investment vehicle of South African billionaire Christo Wiese and his protege Markus Jooste. In recent years, that company has accumulated a string of retailers in Europe and the US including French furniture chain Conforama, UK discounter Poundland and bed stores Harvey's and Bensons For Beds as well as Mattress Firm of the US, all paid for primarily with borrowed money or stock. However, Steinhoff's shares have crashed by 90% in just three weeks following the discovery of what were said to be accounting irregularities associated with €6bn of assets in Europe and the resignation of CEO Jooste. A few days later, chairman Wiese also resigned from the firm. No details of the irregularities have been disclosed, and as yet there is no evidence of wrongdoing. However, several commentators have already started to draw parallels to telecoms group Worldcom or energy giant Enron, both of whom collapsed as a result of accounting frauds designed to hide mounting debts. An investigation is underway, and Steinhoff is in talks with its bankers to buy more time and avoid a panic break-up of the group. However the banks are collectively owed around €1.6bn in loans, and several have already withdrawn their support. Steinhoff must now seek buyers for its chains at one of the most challenging times of year for traditional retailers. There is even a risk that the contagion could spread. Wiese himself also controls or is a major shareholder in a string of other businesses including South African supermarket giant Shoprite and the investment vehicle behind UK fashion chain New Look and food retailer Iceland.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Mar 2016: South African furniture giant Steinhoff, already attempting to disrupt the agreed merger of British retailers Sainsbury's and Argos, has opened a second front in France with a similar gatecrash of the pending deal between entertainment chain Fnac and home appliances store Darty. The latter announced this week that it has received a preliminary approach from Steinhoff's French subsidiary Conforama that would constitute a higher offer than Fnac's.
Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Feb 2016: UK supermarket Sainsbury's bid for general merchandise chain Argos was potentially derailed by a rival bid from South African group Steinhoff, which already has a strong presence in the UK through furniture retailers Harveys and Bensons For Beds, and recently acquired French chain Conforama. As a result, Steinhoff is now the world's second largest furniture retailer after Ikea. It has offered 175p in cash for Argos parent Home Retail Group, trumping Sainsbury's 161p cash-and-shares bid. The British chain has been given an additional three weeks to submit a revised proposal.
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st May 2015: British fashion retailer New Look is to be acquired by Christoph Wiese, the South African billionaire who also recently acquired 80% of the Virgin Active global gym chain and is launching a new discount fashion chain in the UK under the name Pep & Co. Wiese is buying 90% of New Look, valuing the business at £865m. Wiese's investment vehicle Breit will also assume the retail's £1bn of debt. Founder Tom Singh will cash out most of his shares, though he will retain part of the remaining 10% equity stake, alongside management. Singh has already received a payout of more than £300m from New Look's various floats, buyouts and refinancings over the years. The latest deal could earn him as much as another £160m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Apr 2015: Virgin Group and its private equity partner CVC agreed to sell control of the Virgin Active health clubs business to South African investor Christo Wiese. His Brait SE investment umbrella will acquire almost 80% of Virgin Active for £682m. CVC is cashing out altogether, while Virgin will be reduced to 20%. Management retain a small stake. Virgin Active claims to be the biggest gym chain by far in South Africa, as well as the local leader by revenues in the UK and Italy. It has 1.3m members worldwide, through 267 clubs in nine countries.
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