Bidvest said in a trading statement that for the 10 months ended April 2018 its operating performance had been "satisfactory", despite difficult markets.

"As anticipated, the positive sentiment stemming from the political changes post the December 2017 ANC elective conference has not, as yet, translated to increased economic activity," the group said last week.

This was evident in the big drop in growth in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same quarter in 2017, while spending at state-owned enterprises had contracted further as the government investigated allegations of state capture.

Despite this, Bidvest said trading profit had continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace than reported to December 2017. South African operations delivered a "solid" trading result, partially helped by acquisitions. The group also benefited from greater minerals commodity and agricultural volumes, and the "annuity-type nature of many of its operations".

But contract pricing was "very competitive" and this had squeezed margins.

Meanwhile, businesses exposed to SA’s construction sector contracted further on poor demand.

Consumer businesses also reported weak results. But investment activity had continued unabated, with the R1bn liquefied petroleum gas project in Richards Bay on track.

Cratos Capital portfolio manager Ron Klipin said on Friday that business with the government was "very slow", but was only 5% of group exposure.

The motor business was better, but only at the lower end of the market. Meanwhile, Namibian fishing operations had seen quotas reduced.