By Kopano Gumbi, CNBC Africa’s market reporter
“That will be one venti line of credit” is what the board of Taste Holdings is essentially saying to the market.
The debt-laden franchisor, which owns the South African licence for Starbucks and Domino’s Pizza reckons it has a way out of the troubled year it had in 2018 and says its international partners are in support of its plans. This may be hard to believe given the food retailers performance last year. Much like its industry peers, Taste’s food division performed dismally. It recorded a 51 percent increase in its annual losses from 2017 to 2018 and had to abruptly halt the roll out of Starbucks stores, when it ran out of money.
“We want to build stores cheaper, and we think we know how now,” said Chairman Grant Pattison, at the company’s annual general meeting.
It has been almost exactly a year since it did a rights offer at the end of January 2018. Today, the business is looking to raise R132 million ($9.6m) by floating an additional two million ordinary shares at 10 cents each. It hopes to inject enough cash to get it through the year.
This—on the back of a R50 million to R200 million credit line that was extended to it, just four short months ago. Shareholders overwhelmingly voted yes to this capital raise.
Taste plans to resume rolling out Starbucks stores as soon as it receives the money from the rights offer, which could be as soon as March 2019. Just how many stores the retailer will start to open isn’t as clear. Pattison admits it over- capitalised on its flagship Domino’s and Starbucks stores which has led to a “re-evaluation on both sides”. He did however, signal that the new stores wouldn’t be as large or as expensive to build.
“Last year was a year of discovery” says Tyrone Moodley, chief executive of Taste Holdings. He says the business was forced to interrogate its existing business and international partner models. Board and executive management changes also contributed to instability at the company.
Pattison- who is also the chairman of the Edcon Group- reiterates full faith in the executive management, and believes CEO Moodley, is uniquely positioned to steer this ship, given his keen eye for investment.
The investment community questioned whether delisting was on the cards, which Pattison emphatically denied.
“There have been no discussions at board level about delisting,” says Pattison. But given the position Taste is in, one has to wonder if it wouldn’t benefit from being off the board?