Brait’s losses a new blow to billionaire Christo Wiese
Billionaire Christo Wiese has received more bad news as a company in which he has the biggest shareholder reported a decline in the value of its investments alongside higher borrowings.
Brait SE, in which Wiese owns a 35% stake, said net asset value was R57.32 at the end of March, compared with a restated R77.63 a year earlier, with retailer New Look struggling amid a sales slump on the UK’s shopping streets. The company’s other assets include fitness chain Virgin Active and supermarket chain Iceland.
Wiese’s net worth plunged when Steinhoff International Holdings, in which he was the largest investor, reported accounting irregularities late last year.
While Brait is unrelated to the scandal-hit clothing and furniture retailer, its stock has slumped 41% over the past 12 months, reducing the value of Wiese’s Brait stake to about R7bn ($479m). The 76-year-old is now worth about $2.3bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, compared with $5bn before the Steinhoff scandal erupted.
Brait shares lost as much as 6% before reversing to gain 3.4% by the close in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The company decided not to declare a dividend and rather to focus on reducing its debt, it said in a statement on Tuesday. Borrowings climbed 77% to R4.7bn.
Wiese quit as a nonexecutive director of New Look last month and as nonexecutive chairman of Brait South Africa, citing time constraints as he gears up for a legal battle with Steinhoff. He is suing the owner of Conforama in France and Mattress Firm in the US for R59bn.
Wiese has this year sold shares in Shoprite Holdings, Brait and Aspen Pharmacare Holdings to raise cash. The billionaire’s stake in Steinhoff was cut to about 6% earlier this year, from 20.5%, after banks sold stock put up by the former chairman to secure margin loans.
According to Tuesday’s statement, he has also sold a special-purpose vehicle which carried €1.4bn of debt to Brait for a notional sum. That debt is now guaranteed by Brait rather than Titan Premier Investments, another Wiese company.
Wiese is also the largest shareholder in South African investment company Invicta Holdings, which on Monday said annual profit fell 23% and that it is in discussions with SARS over payments. The shares of that company have slumped 27% this year.
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