Ann Crotty Writer-at-large

Six weeks into the new year, the big question dominating chatter in the investment community is this: will SA’s wealthiest man, Christo Wiese, be allowed to vote his shares in the mega Shoprite/Steinhoff deal? Shortly before Christmas, the two companies announced plans to merge their African operations to create a continent-wide “retail champion” consisting of brands such as Checkers, Pep, Ackermans, Russells, Incredible Connection and Tekkie Town. To some extent it wasn’t unexpected, as Wiese had always spoken of such a deal as a “natural development”. Though details of the deal are still being “negotiated”, it’s most likely both companies will do a complicated share swap to create “the retail champion of Africa”, with Steinhoff likely to end up with about 56% of Shoprite. But the risk is that smaller shareholders may get the raw end of the deal, while Wiese, who sits on both sides of the fence, could score. As it is, he owns 23% of Steinhoff and 46% of Shoprite’s voting shares — s...

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