The further adventures of Christo Wiese
HOW BIG WILL RETAIL tycoon and serial risk-taker Christo Wiese bet on Steinhoff International? As colleague Stafford Thomas’s cover story notes, Wiese is a significant shareholder in Steinhoff. But he may become an even bigger participant if pan-African supermarket giant Shoprite is reversed into the Steinhoff mix. And what will become of the retail element in Brait — where Wiese also holds sway? Could First Look eventually also be ushered towards Steinhoff?
It’s rather strange to think Wiese’s participation in Steinhoff had its roots in unlisted liquor company KWV. Readers might remember that more than a decade ago Wiese swapped his significant minority stake in KWV for PSG Group shares … and then swapped out his PSG shares for Steinhoff paper a few years later. (Steinhoff holds 20% of PSG.)
Investors probably won’t bet against Wiese and Steinhoff’s Markus Jooste building a retail-based conglomerate that would rank among the biggest (and most profitable) in the world.
More conservative investors might fret about the risks in adventurous and aggressive deal making. Wiese, though, will know all too well the cost of overextending corporate ambitions — having fallen short of bancassurance ambitions in the late-1990s when a specialist financial services conglomerate assembled under the old BoE constellation came unstuck amid the small banks crisis in SA.
On a completely different tack, I must once again apologise for my casual cameo at the Stockbroker of the Year awards at the JSE last month. Addressing a room full of stockbrokers in an old pair of jeans is unforgiveable.
Still, if it’s bad enough realising that your suit-bag is not going to turn up on the baggage carousel at OR Tambo International, then it’s far worse remembering your speech is in the inside pocket of the suit.
Anyway I am happy to report that the good folks at SAA managed to locate and safely return my formal attire.
Finishing on a sad note, I feel I must reflect on the recent passing away of legendary financial journalist Howard Preece. I had the privilege of working with Howard for a handful of years, and can probably say without risk of contradiction that he set the bar for financial writing. He was an old school gentleman, a hugely entertaining colleague and writer whose copy was not only enlightening but also easy to read.
Howard’s corner office at the old Finweek (which he shared with a stoic Kaveer Beharee) was a cluster of confusion with papers piled up on every inch of the desk. Kaveer would often struggle to find Howard’s phone when it was ringing. But if you asked Howard for the Reserve Bank bulletin for the third quarter of 1997, he could find it in 10 seconds.
A great man has departed. ■■IM