December — by any standard — is not a month most investors expect to be confronted by big corporate tie-ups. Or at least it wasn’t until Steinhoff and Shoprite (officially) divulged news that they were indeed hatching a mega-deal to create a unit called Retail Africa through the merger of their African operations. No-one can say the market was not warned. Christo Wiese, owner of 23.1% of Steinhoff and 15.93% of Shoprite, had made it abundantly clear in a string of not-so-cryptic statements that it would be a "natural development" for the two retail giants to join forces. Both groups were rather thin on the details when the news broke, leaving many asking: what’s in it for Wiese? "I love scale," the retail tycoon told the Financial Mail. "Both companies have also been part of my life for a very long time." Wiese’s association with Steinhoff-owned Pepkor, a key element of the Retail Africa deal, goes back to the late 1960s. It was also Pepkor that got the Shoprite growth story rolling...

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