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Within a week, one of the world’s largest retailers has seen its grand ambition of becoming an emerging-market “Ikea” or “Walmart” all but collapse. When trading in the shares began Friday morning, Steinhoff had seen its share value plummet by 40%, trading as low as R5 a share. Days before, the Christo Wiese-owned Steinhoff was still riding on the crest of a wave, and seemed on the verge of joining the world’s major leagues with a proposed tie-up with Africa’s biggest grocer, Shoprite. Just last week, STAR announced that it had exercised call options for the 23.1% acquisition of shares in Shoprite for R35.5-billion and for a 50.6% voting control in the company. Now Whitey Basson, the former Shoprite CEO, is uncertain about the prospects of the deal. Basson, a longtime ally of Wiese, said on Friday: “I’m really not in the loop about what is currently happening at Steinhoff.” There were conditions precedent that still had to be resolved by competition authorities. I really don’t even ...

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