Billionaire Christo Wiese sells over $80mln in Shoprite shares

PUBLISHED: Thu, 21 Dec 2017 17:03:04 GMT

By CNBC Africa and Reuters

Christo Wiese, former Chairman of Steinhoff, which fell like a house of cards following accounting irregularities, has sold over a billion rand worth of shares in Africa’s largest retail group Shoprite where he is Chairman.

This comes days after he pulled out of an agreement to sell Steinhoff’s subsidiary Steinhoff Africa Retail a controlling stake in Shoprite.

In a stock exchange news service statement it was revealed that he had sold 5 million shares worth R1.1bn ($87mln). That brings the money he has raised since Dec. 14 from the sale of Shoprite stock to 3.3 billion rand ($260 million). It is unclear what he would be using the money for and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One can only wonder if it is due to vast amounts of his wealth being wiped out following the significant decline in Steinhoff’s share price?

More than $14 billion of shareholder value has been wiped off Steinhoff over the last three weeks after the owner of Mattress Firm and Conforama discovered what it called accounting irregularities and parted company with its chief executive.

The 90 percent collapse hit Wiese’s wealth — estimated by Forbes magazine to have dropped to below $1 billion — the hardest as he is the largest Steinhoff shareholder with a stake of about 20 percent.

Wiese borrowed 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to buy additional Steinhoff shares in September 2016, pledging 3.2 billion euros of his existing holding as security to the investment banks that lent the money.

Shares in Steinhoff dropped a further 11 percent on Thursday, extending the decline to the second day after the company said some lenders have started restricting access to credit lines.

Wiese was one of the early directors of a budget retailer Pepkor, which was co-founded by his parents in 1960 in Upington on the southern edges of the Kalahari desert.

He is best known for transforming Shoprite from just six shops in the 1970s to hundreds of stores across Africa.

Shoprite’s Non-Executive Director Carel Goosen disposed of 80 000 shares in Shoprite worth over R17 million.

Separately, financial services firm Sanlam Group, which has exposure to Steinhoff’s debt and equity instruments, said the potential impact on the group’s 2017 and future earnings was not significant.

Sanlam said the decline in the value of Steinhoff shares held in its capital portfolios was to a large extent protected by equity hedges in place.

Sanlam is the second firm to disclose Steinhoff’s impact on its investments after Anglo-South African investment bank and asset manager Investec,. ($1 = 12.7004 rand)

($1 = 12.7004 rand)

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