FILE PHOTO: A customer walks beneath the logo of South African supermarket operator Pick n Pay in Cape Town, South Africa, April 26 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Pick n Pay’s efforts to shore up its balance sheet through a rights issue and the listing of its discounter business Boxer could give the South African retailer time to fix its core supermarket business, analysts said.

The group surprised investors on Thursday with the two-step recapitalisation plan aimed at raising up to 4 billion rand ($208 million) to boost its near-term liquidity.

With little wiggle room, new CEO Sean Summers made the call after the retailer’s net debt nearly doubled to 7.2 billion rand as of Jan. 21, from 3.8 billion on Aug. 27, breaching debt covenants.

“It is a very desperate attempt to put the business on the right path – probably a sign that Sean did not entirely envision Pick n Pay supermarkets’ problems to be of this magnitude,” said Casparus Treurnicht, portfolio manager at Gryphon Asset Management.


Summers is tasked with turning round a company that has been losing market share against bigger rival Shoprite SHPJ.J and others for more than a decade in a highly promotional market and an economy struggling with high interest rates, rising inflation and high energy costs.

Specifically, he has to improve the performance of the core Pick n Pay supermarkets business.


“With less pressure from a debt point of view, it might be easier” to do that, Treurnicht said.

More details of the turnaround plan will be announced in May, including the terms of the planned capital raising.

“If successfully implemented, these steps could stabilise and potentially revitalise the company, aligning with a broader strategy to focus on the core business and independently leverage Boxer’s strong performance,” Stephan Erasmus, investment analyst at Anchor Capital, said.

On Friday, Pick n Pay shares were 6.13% higher at 1221 GMT after plunging more than 17% on Thursday.

Richard Cheesman, senior analyst at Protea Capital Management, said many had expected either a rights issue or Boxer’s listing, but not both.

He added doing both was probably right as the retailer was “in a difficult space and it can’t really take half measures to try and rectify” years of underperformance.


($1 = 19.2678 rand)

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Potter)