It is difficult not to feel a tad sorry for the team at Pepkor right now. Mind you, shareholders who have had to carry the cost of the R500m bailout for the top executives might not have been inclined to do so at this stage.

The executive team is facing what must be the toughest trading conditions in the group’s history. And while we used to think tough times would benefit a company that focuses on the lowest income groups, it seems the economy is so weak that parts of the lowest income groups are becoming “no-income” groups. People who were once earning R6,000 a month are now unemployed and relying on social grants, CEO Leon Lourens told analysts at the recent results presentation. What a dire situation this must be for millions of South Africans. All in all, this is not the best time to be distracted by the machinations of a wayward controlling shareholder. It’s hard not to imagine that Pepkor management would cope better with the tough trading environment if it did not hav...

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