Pro­file: Christo Wiese built re­tailer for all play­ing fields

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS NEWS - Chris Spil­lane

CHRISTO Wiese had been speak­ing to his friend Markus Jooste about com­bin­ing their re­tail­ers for years. Three days ago, he was con­fi­dent enough to cel­e­brate the $5.7 bil­lion (R62.5bn) deal by light­ing his bar­be­cue.

“I thought in terms of build­ing a re­ally world-class dis­count re­tailer, the two busi­nesses would make an ex­cel­lent fit,” Wiese said yes­ter­day. “I was hav­ing a braai at home” when the deal was com­pleted, he said, us­ing the Afrikaans word for a cook-off.

The bil­lion­aire owner of South African clothes re­tailer Pep­kor Hold­ings agreed to sell to Stein­hoff In­ter­na­tional Hold­ings in the coun­try’s big­gest takeover for more than a decade. The com­bined company will have more than 6 000 stores across three con­ti­nents and plans to be­come one of the top five dis­count re­tail­ers in the world.

Wiese, one of South Africa’s rich­est men with a for­tune of about $5.6bn, ham­mered out the deal with Stein­hoff chief ex­ec­u­tive Jooste, a friend and business part­ner for 20 years.

He would re­main a Stein­hoff share­holder with a stake worth about R34.7bn, the company said.

Pep­kor will as­sist Stein­hoff in its goal to tap fur­ther into dis­count re­tail­ing in South Africa as more shop­pers seek value amid high in­fla­tion and a 25 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate.

South African re­tail­ers have strug­gled this year as the econ­omy is set to grow at its slow­est pace in five years.

Stein­hoff is “the sort of company that can re­ally go places, they’ve carved a niche for them­selves in the world where they play”, Wiese said. “They are the sec­ond-largest fur­ni­ture re­tailer in Europe, that’s quite an achieve­ment for a business from South Africa.”

Wiese was born in the North­ern Cape in 1941 and started work­ing as an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at Pep Stores, then a small cloth­ing chain that would grow to be­come Pep­kor, in the 1960s. After a brief in­ter­lude in di­a­mond min­ing, he re­turned as chair­man in 1980 and took

He keeps a low pro­file con­sid­er­ing his wealth and in­vest­ment in South African business.

the company pub­lic six years later.

By then Pep­kor had bought gro­cer Sho­prite Hold­ings, which was later spun off and is now Africa’s big­gest re­tailer by mar­ket value. Wiese had eq­uity in both com­pa­nies and now owns a stake in Sho­prite val­ued at about $1.3bn, ac­cord­ing to the Bloomberg Billionaires’ in­dex.

“He’s been a re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man and built a re­tailer that con­tends with the big play­ers,” Wayne McCur­rie, a money man­ager at Mo­men­tum As­set Man­age­ment, said. “He keeps a low pro­file con­sid­er­ing his wealth and in­vest­ment in South African busi­nesses.”

The owner of a game re­serve in the Kala­hari desert and 1 618-hectare wine es­tate out­side Cape Town, his stake in Pep­kor was val­ued at $2.5bn as of Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Bloomberg.

His net worth in­creased by 12 per­cent yes­ter­day, or $610 mil­lion. – Bloomberg

Bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Christo Wiese

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